The Tempest

Performance Dates
Saturday Oct 18th 8pm
Sunday Oct 19th 3pm
Saturday Oct 25th 8pm
Sunday Oct 26th 3pm
Saturday Nov 1st 8pm
Sunday Nov 2nd 3pm
Saturday Nov 8th 8pm
Sunday Nov 9th 3pm

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Venue
Buriel Clay Theatre
African-American Art & Culture Complex
762 Fulton Street, San Francisco
Map & Directions

October 18-November 9, 2014

The Tempest

Playwright William Shakespeare
Directed by Nancy Carlin

The year is 2020. SYCORAX, the mother of all multi-product industrial conglomerates, based in Milan, is under investigation. The charge: dumping millions of tons of garbage in the Pacific causing a floating island of debris the size of Colorado. Unhappy with the company’s lies and dumping practices, Prospero, a duke of Milan and former CEO of SYCORAX, threatens to testify before congress. He is quickly dismissed, his dukedom usurped, and banished to sea with his young daughter, Miranda. Miraculously surviving, they float up to the shores of this very debris field, the island of SYCORAX. He makes the island, with its single inhabitant, the deformed spawn Caliban, his home, and plots his revenge.

Assisting Prospero in his endeavors is an Application, “Ariel” he discovers from reclaimed parts scavenged from SYCORAX’s trash. Ariel becomes his personal assistant and knowledge navigator capable of holographic manifestations and manipulation of weather patterns. When Prospero’s enemies, “by Providence divine”, show up on his radar, he and Ariel treat them to a storm of biblical proportions. All of their lives are tempest-tossed and ultimately re-ordered. Mankind is seen at its worst, and monsters and machines show themselves to be human. Nothing is the same after man’s tsunami of greed, the very planet is scorched from unwary amassing of wealth and the resulting environmental destruction. If virtue can win out over vengeance and avarice the storm can be weathered.

Director's NotesDramaturg's Notes
Power grabbing and wealth amassing have rarely been environmentally friendly endeavors. Industry and Technology have flourished under greedy leaders for as long as humans have been able to make fire and chop down a tree. Seeking ways to simplify tasks (both menial and as unfathomable as going to war) and extort hard earned (and barely earned) cash for stuff we simply “can’t” live without, the Bottom Line tends to dictate the direction of innovation, while the actual value of knowledge and deep thought shrinks.

Placing our Prospero of Shakespeare’s final tale here on Mankind’s own island of unrecyclable trash is like having to sleep in the bed you made. We are all culpable of contributing to this mess. “Good” people, who look the other way as planet-degrading practices flourish, find themselves occupying the same sullied earth. Seeking to revenge a personal wrong done him, Prospero enslaves technology and weather patterns, to his own advantage. When his enemies, “by Providence divine”, show up on his radar, he and his app, Ariel, treat them to a mythic storm. Their lives are tempest-tossed and ultimately re-ordered. Mankind is seen at its worst, and monsters and machines show themselves to be human. Nothing is the same after man’s tsunami of greed; the very planet is scorched from unwary amassing of wealth and the resulting environmental destruction. If virtue can win out over vengeance the storm can be weathered.

Now if I were to govern, I’d do it like Gonzalo imagines in her Utopia: “All things in common nature should produce Without sweat or endeavor: treason felony, Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine, Would I not have; but nature should bring forth, Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance, To feed my innocent people.” Not just because I am a flower child from Berkeley. The alternative is too onerous. In the meantime, we still have love, compassion, and forgiveness. ​Use them!

Nancy Carlin

Shakespeare wrote The Tempest during the Age of Exploration, which had witnessed the travels of Columbus, Vespucci, Magellan, and Cortés. One of the most popular forms of literature was the travel journal, which entertained readers with high adventures from uncharted lands, though the line between fiction and nonfiction in these “journals” was not observed Such “travel reports” included descriptions of people who had their faces in the middle of their bodies, and of horses with wings, or horns. The public would pay to view natives from foreign lands—primarily Native Americans and Africans—who were displayed in their native costumes, as museum pieces or circus displays. The point was not to understand the exotic cultures, but to be thrilled by their strangeness.

Shakespeare grew up in this atmosphere. The original setting for The Tempest is a nameless island where an Italian nobleman and his three-year-old daughter have been washed ashore. One inhabitant of the island is Caliban, who himself was abandoned on the island with his mother, from Algiers, many years ago. Caliban is human, but he is in such rough condition from his life on the island—including abuse from the nobleman himself—that he seems animal-like to Europeans when they arrive on the island.

Today we are still entertained by displays of exotic, imaginary settings, whether in “reality” TV shows set in jungles, or in science fiction movies. But the primary attraction of great literature continues to be its ability to provoke observations about our psyches and our humanity, to expose our weaknesses, and to encourage our strengths. Whether we are thinking of our own world, or imagining the remote island of the original setting of The Tempest, or the island of floating debris that is the setting of this production, we recognize our own image as we leave our too-large footprint on the environment, expressed in Ariel’s words as she reports the behavior of the humans, “So full of valour that they smote the air for breathing in their faces; beat the ground for kissing their feet; yet always bending towards their project.”

Dennis Chowenhill, Ed.D.

Cast

Production Team

Director
Nancy Carlin
Production Manager, Technical Director, and Lighting Designer
Kevin Myrick
Stage Manager
Cheryle Honerlah
Set Designer/Carpenter
Bert van Aalsburg
Costume Designer
Maureen “Mo” Stone
Choreographer
Bridgette Loriaux
Dramaturgy
Dennis Chowenhill, Ed.D.

* The Actor appears through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.