The performance of The Tempest as performed by St. Louis Shakespeare theater was used for this reflection. The production approached the play using a period drama approach with a focus on acting and stage presence as the primary factors to drive the play. This performance covered the text of the Shakespearean play, making it a full-length production (StLouisShakespeare, 2012). It seems to be a semi-amateur production, but it was a well-done performance of a classic Shakespearean tale.
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The set design for this production was simple. A small main stage was at the center of all the events. In the background, a decoration was used of a tree surrounded by blocks of stone ruins. The ruins had steps and platforms which created several levels of elevation. At times, during the play, the actors used this to manipulate stage presence. For example, someone in power or giving a soliloquy was positioned above those at the bottom, both literally and figuratively.
However, elements of the play such as the scenes at sea or magical illusions were unfitting for the set design. As this was a period piece, costuming attempted to meet the standards of the historical colonial era. Soldiers wore traditional helmets and chest plates. Men dressed in traditional breeches and coats with cloaks. However, some characters such as Prospero wore a robe as a symbol of his monastic wizard status. Ariel and Caliban had more complex costume designs which were elaborate and abstract with heavy use of make-up to portray them as non-human.
There were some special effects used for the play. Mostly, manipulation of lighting which could have an effective result and does not require complex planning or equipment. The audience was in the dark with lighting being concentrated on the stage. For most of the play, a gentle light was at the center of the stage where the action occurred. However, during particularly scenes, lighting color or brightness changed to reflect the tone of the scene or add an effect to the magical element of the plot.
Audio effects were noticed to some extent. The use of gentle music or sounds to create an atmosphere was a welcome contribution. However, in some scenes, such as the shipwreck, the audio effects were so loud (most likely to compensate for the lack of visual set pieces), that dialogue was hard to distinguish.
The producers and actors of the production took liberties with the interpretation of some elements of the play. One of the most unique aspects of the performance was the use of four actresses to represent the spirit Ariel. It was most likely meant to symbolize the mysticism and multidimensional nature of the fairy. However, since the production was amateur and there was no elaborate set design, this became cumbersome at times due to ineffective use of stage presence.
Overall, the acting was convincing, particularly from actors representing supernatural creatures or people. Caliban had a beast-like attitude and mannerisms in his movement while Prospero produced an aura of power and leadership as the character in the play. Acting did not seem forced, and instances of humor and conflict were genuinely enjoyable to watch.
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After watching this performance, it can be reasoned that theater continues to play a vital role in contemporary Western culture. Shakespeare is one of the classics for dramatic arts and performances for plays like The Tempest continues to attract widespread attention. Low budget and amateur productions use theatrical performance for creative outlet and recreation purposes as well as to have a platform to voice opinions and values of century-old ideals (“The cultural evolution of theater,” 2017).
StLouisShakespeare. (2012). Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Web.
The cultural evolution of theater. (2017). Web.