Becoming Caliban
Chronicles of a production of The Tempest
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Performances 3, 4, & 5

Friday ended up being a phenomenal day -- the energy waned some in the morning, since the audience was small and we were all a bit tired, but by Friday night the show had found its pacing and everything seemed to connect. The audience Friday night was magnificent and truly appreciative. The concentration and imagination that propelled us through the first three shows by Friday night had blossomed into something closer to living than performing.

I learned Friday afternoon that I had been rejected from Brown University's grad school, which was not a surprise, but was, nonetheless, a disappointment, and it affected me more deeply than it really should have (I knew the odds), so by the time I got to the theatre I was fully ready to shed the dull and tired suit of my self and wear Caliban for a while, because as servile and mercurial and vindictive as he is, I find him really quite endearing -- he is at his core innocent in a way that I almost envy (and yes I know much of this comes from the colonialist impulses of Elizabethan/Jacobean England, but when wearing the character and being propelled by the words, I don't think about any of that. That's the sort of thing a director has to think of. For me, it's just about existing within the moments laid out by the script and by the rehearsal process.)

Today I found myself out of sorts. I suddenly had an entire morning and afternoon free. There were plenty of errands I needed to do, and did, but I was unorganized and moody. Then when I got to the theatre and sat down in the dressing room and began putting gel in my hair and make-up on my face, I was comfortable and at peace again. Strange. The woman playing Alonso said she felt the same way, that she'd gone grocery shopping and done a bunch of things that needed to be done, but had felt anxious and muddle-headed until she got to the theatre. Ending tomorrow will be sad, I'm sure -- I'll be thrilled to get my life back, to begin to read through the pile of books I have waiting for me, to perhaps clean the dreadfully cluttered apartment, to figure out how I'm teaching what I'm teaching in the spring term. But I have become so attached to this character that I will be sad to let him go, to no longer get to play in his world twice or once a day.

Tonight's performance wasn't bad, but didn't feel as energized as last night's. This is entirely subjective, of course; audience members seemed quite taken with the whole thing, and an actor's perception of how a show felt is narrow. I've added something every night, just to keep myself amused, and tonight I borrowed some make-up and colored my hands green, which the director suggested before the show, because he said when I rise up out of the pit hands-first, my hands are much too white and clean. I agreed and did something about it. Apparently I also danced somewhat differently than usual at the end of II.ii -- he came back at intermission and was amused, suggesting I'd become a sort of hip-hop Caliban.

There was a cast party tonight, but I was feeling antisocial and skipped it. Some friends invited me out for drinks, and I avoided that as well. I feel too naked after a show to do any social activities, which are a different kind of performance, and with this show in particular I find that the only thing I really want to do is get in my car and ease out of the role during the 45-minute-drive home. I probably seemed rude and unappreciative, but so it goes. I wonder if I acted more frequently, and not just once a year or so, if I'd find it easier to go from the world of the stage to the world of the world, but for as long as I've done this -- about 20 years now, actually -- I've never much liked parties or group things after a show, while most of the actors I know seem to be exactly the opposite -- they love the social stage as much as the theatre stage, and their performances go on and on late into the night and early morning. Me, I just want to go home and watch a movie.

Last night's movie was Stage Beauty, which is full of Shakespeare, and which I very much enjoyed for the first two-thirds and hated hated hated for the last third, when all of the complexities and ambiguities of the story's explorations of gender and identity are slaughtered in favor of a Hollywood ending. Billy Crudup's performance, though, is breathtaking. (I'll probably end up writing more about this over at The Mumpsimus, because the reasons I hated the ending are more complex than I just said.) Tonight's film is one I've been looking forward to for well over a year now: Hayao Miyazaki's >Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind -- I adore Miyazaki's films, and a former student of mine, who is Japanese, told me many times that this is one of the best. It only recently came out on DVD in the U.S., and I bought a copy today as a consolation to myself for not getting in to Brown.

And so it goes. One more performance. I both look forward to it and dread it because it is the last.

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the production
The Tempest
produced by Advice to the Players
at The Barnstormers Theatre
Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA

March 17 & 18, 2005
at 10am & 7pm

March 19
at 7pm

March 20
at 2pm

shakespeare links
Open Source Shakespeare
The Tempest Text
Elizabethan Pronunciation
Perseus Project
Early Modern Literary Studies
collection of Tempest links
Images of The Tempest
The Tempest in old postcards
Post-Colonial Tempest Links

2005-02-27 2005-03-06 2005-03-13 2005-03-20

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about the writer
Matthew Cheney teaches English and theatre at The New Hampton School.

This weblog chronicles his experiences rehearsing and performing the role of Caliban in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.


Primary website: The Mumpsimus

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