Monthly Archives: February 2010




THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare


With the Bridge Project 2010, Sam Mendes has gone beyond trying to find a Shakespeare who can speak to us today—he wants to drag the playwright right into the current culture wars, too.  His recent As You Like It included a Depression-era tableau and torture scenes to point to the recession and our Mideast conflicts, but it was too heavy an overlay for Rosalind’s conjurings.  Now, without resorting to portraying children at witch school, the director elucidates the contemporary pagan revival, offering practice, technique, and personalities, which aren’t mere wavings of a wand. Instead, they seem to have a basis in Wicca or the reconstruction of ancient religions. Whether they are exact replications or not, my feeling is that he’s more on Shakespeare’s wavelength this time.  One point we can infer from The Tempest is that the bard–this is considered his last solo venture–did not want to provoke a religious attack—and probably decided to keep his head. Elizabeth I herself, in discussing the divide among Catholics and Protestants, said, “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.” What she meant was that she wanted a big tent approach to worship in the Church of England—what you did on your own time was your own business (but use The Book of Common Prayer on Sunday). Shakespeare, given a little wiggle room, offers us spells, trance states, psychic knockouts, and Celtic myth in The Tempest–and you better believe he takes it all back by the end, forswearing his magical tools and garments to get himself to church: “[M]y ending is despair, Unless I be relieved by prayer."


Shakespeare’s lip service to the prevailing state religion, however, doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be a ripe candidate for the coven today.  Scholars notify us to the classical allusions in the plays—so we can pinpoint the mythology and antecedents–but it's the pre-Christian cosmology and ritual that command the stage. Fairies, ghosts, goddesses and omens, witches and potions–they’re what ask us to co-create the theatrical journey, perhaps, drawing on a childhood memory of a fairy tale or attuning us to an intrinsic human archetype.  It’s also part of a larger discussion, at least in the U.S., where alternative religion has superficially entered into the public consciousness—but which can still inflame the religious Right.  Shakespeare knew the dangerous outcome of such provocations, with responses exactly the same as those in the 2000s —Sebastian, for example, the brother of the King of Naples, on hearing of the magician’s powers, accuses Prospero in an aside, “The devil speaks in him.”  It’s also not so unusual to see modern ritual defined as authentic—although Egyptologist Margaret Murray, Ph.D., felt there was an unbroken line of witches from the Stone Age (the theory was discredited); others think performed ritual may have lasted from the Middle Ages. No matter how unlikely this idea is, too—there were the burning times in between–presenting Prospero as a garden-variety Gardnerian, plugging along, casting his magic circles, cursing or chanting to himself, mopping his brow, does put the past in the present for the audience or vice versa, linking us to Shakespeare and his time.  No longer the effortless enchanter, Prospero, the witch, does laborious real rites; it’s a great opening for this production, for example, and, whether the magic circle comes from Wicca or the theatrical theory of Ingmar Bergman, the cone of power is raised.


As long as there's no test tomorrow, it's advantageous to understand the background of Shakespeare's works–here, of course, the very idea of setting The Tempest on an island was prompted by discoveries in the New World (and Caliban, played by Ron Cephas Jones, is a supposed example of the kind of inhabitant one might find there). Describing the scene–one of his few original plays–the bard is clearly lost: his Italy seems a lot closer to the Caribbean in the text than it really is geographically, but, of course, the whole nature of data was very different in the 1600s than it is today. Not that he doesn’t have plenty to teach—and Mendes, like the dramatist, draws on the source material to talk about the schism in his own time.  Actors, naturally, could not approach the part of Mary Tyrone or Blanche Dubois, Willy Loman, or Troy Maxon with the same un-Freudian relish that they can with a Shakespeare character–unless they want to.  The uniformly fine actors in this production are supplying unique creations–and Anthony O'Donnell also manages to be hilarious as Trinculo:  Stephen Dillane's Prospero (played as a traditional shamanistic witch) is down to earth; Juliet Rylance's Miranda doesn't understand that she's boy crazy (Rylance has serious chops–someone you'd want to be onstage with when mishaps occur because she can cover and she’s there for the other actors.  You also might think, like I did, that Shakespeare let her down by not making the part bigger–something I've never thought before while watching this role).  Mendes's choice of Christian Camargo continues to be a very daring one.  He's a wild-card actor, very different, very modern.  I couldn't decide whether he was basing his interpretation of Ariel on a monster movie, Tim Burton film, German silent, or, merely playing an alien or Dr. Spock on Star Trek.  Ultimately, I believe, picking from the constellation of neopagan types, he was acting a goth, without either clove cigarettes or absinthe—the requisite elegance showing in a suit with no shirt and a gown.


© 2010 by Bob Shuman


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The Tempest

Part of the 2010 Spring Season and The Bridge Project

Feb 14—Mar 13

World Premiere

Produced by BAM, The Old Vic & Neal Street Productions

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Mendes

"Five Stars"—Time Out New York on The Bridge Project, 2009

“…one of the foremost theatre directors in the world…”
—The Telegraph (UK) on Sam Mendes

“…profound and luminous…”
—The Straits Times (Singapore) on The Bridge Project, 2009

Last spring, The Bridge Project launched its inaugural season at BAM with an outstanding ensemble of American and British actors in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. Following its successful debut in New York, the critically-acclaimed company, led by Tony and Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (Broadway’s Cabaret}, and the films American Beauty and Revolutionary Road), embarked on a world tour, delighting audiences in cities including Singapore, Madrid, Auckland, Athens, and London.

Year two of The Bridge Project promises another stellar transatlantic lineup and an intriguing pairing of two Shakespeare plays as Mendes and company explore outcasts, power, and magical lands with their world premiering productions of the comedy As You Like It and The Tempest, considered to be Shakespeare’s last play.

Featured actors include:
Michelle Beck (Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Twelfth Night, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Cyrano de Bergerac
Christian Camargo (Broadway’s All My Sons, the film The Hurt Locker)
Tony Award-winner Stephen Dillane, (Broadway’s The Real Thing, HBO’s John Adams)
Obie Award-winner Alvin Epstein (Broadway's The Three Penny Opera; BAM's Endgame)
Obie Award-winner Ron Cephas Jones (Broadway’s Gem of the Ocean, Donmar’s Jesus Hopped the A-Train)
Juliet Rylance (Theatre for a New Audience’s Othello, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale)
Thomas Sadoski (Broadway’s reasons to be pretty and Reckless)

BAM Harvey Theater
Approx 135min with no intermission

Subscription tickets:
$28, 52, 68, 76
$20, 44, 60, 68 (Feb 16—25, Tue—Thu only)

Full price:
$35, 65, 85, 95
$25, 55, 75, 85 (Feb 16—25, Tue—Thu only)

*Feb 14, 16—21, 23—28 at 7:30pm
Feb 28 at 2pm
Mar 6, 7, 9—13 at 7:30pm

The complete acting company is as follows: Ashlie Atkinson (Juno), Jenni Barber (Iris), Michelle Beck (Ceres), Edward Bennett (Ferdinand)*, Christian Camargo (Ariel), Stephen Dillane (Prospero)*, Alvin Epstein (Gonzalo), Jonathan Lincoln Fried (Alonso), Richard Hansell (Sebastian)*, Ron Cephas Jones (Caliban), Aaron Krohn (Adrian), Anthony O'Donnell (Trinculo)*, Juliet Rylance (Miranda)*, Thomas Sadoski (Stephano), Michael Thomas (Antonio)*, Ross Waiton (Francisco)*

*Indicates British member of company

Edward Bennett, Stephen Dillane, Richard Hansell, Anthony O'Donnell, Juliet Rylance, Michael Thomas, and Ross Waiton are appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association. Ashlie Atkinson, Jenni Barber, Michelle Beck, Christian Camargo, Alvin Epstein, Jonathan Fried, Ron Cephas Jones, Aaron Krohn, and Thomas Sadoski are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, in corporating Variety Artistes' Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity. The Producers gratefully acknowledge Actors' Equity Association for its assistance of this production.

Set Design by Tom Piper
Costumes by Catherine Zuber
Lighting by Paul Pyant
Sound by Simon Baker
Composed by Mark Bennett
Hair & Wigs by Tom Watson
Casting by Nancy Piccione and Maggie Lunn
Choreography by Josh Prince

International Tour Producer: Claire Béjanin

Article:'s “People Are Talking About: Ten Cultural Resolutions for 2010”
“… two plays that explore the sometimes thorny bond between fathers and daughters, As You Like It and The Tempest.”

Article: Time Out New York features The Bridge Project’s Stephen Dillane
"Stephen Dillane—consummate British actor and thinking person’s heartthrob…”

Article: The New York Times on Stephen Dillane
“The Week Ahead” highlights the industrious Dillane

Article: The New Yorker on The Bridge Project
As You Like It and The Tempest are featured in the magazine’s Winter Preview

Interview: Time Out New York talks to The Bridge Project’s Ron Cephas Jones
“Jones…earns that hackneyed critical plaudit, ‘riveting.’”

Article: The Village Voice features Sam Mendes in “Voice Choices”
“America and England join hands for Sam Mendes”

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If you're not already on the Binge, join our Yahoo group for playwrights–in which members go on a "binge" to submit at least once a day for 30 days. It's a great way to get your work out. Below is the contact/subscribe and FAQ so you can see what it's about.




Playwright Submission Binge Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Binge?

It’s really two things.  First, it’s a Yahoo group that’s turned into a supportive, online community for playwrights, with a focus on marketing and the business end of playwriting.

Secondly, it’s a challenge that the group takes twice a year (starting March 1 and September 1)—to make a submission a day, every day, for 30 days.  During the Binge, writers make submissions and then report to the group about what they sent, where, and why.  These 30 days end up being a fun way to get a lot of play marketing done, while also exchanging a lot of information and building good habits.

What if I can’t submit every day?

That’s okay.  We’re not going to kick you out of the group.  Some people just don’t have the time to submit every day and end up clumping instead.  Use the Binge however it works best for you.  But do join in and start making submissions and sharing what you’re up to.

How do I start?

When the Binge starts (or is in progress, if you’re joining late), make your submission and then post to the group.  In your first post, please introduce yourself.  Tell us briefly about where you live, what you write, and how much you normally submit during the course of a year.  Please share links to your blog or web site (and feel free to post them in the Binge Group links folder, too).

After your first post, keep submitting and posting for the rest of the Binge.  During the Binge, list traffic can get pretty heavy, so we ask that you keep your posts to a minimum—save y our congrats, thanks, and “attaboys” for your main post of the day.  Do feel free to post any new opps that you find (you’ll be very popular).  If an opp has a fee, please include that info in the subject line of your post.

Where do I find places to submit?

Finding 30 places in a row to send your scripts can be tough.  There is, of course, always the Dramatists Guild Resource Directory, which has lots of listings.

We also have a whole folder on the Binge Group site with links to web sites with lists of playwright submission opportunities.

Can I post my script to the group and get comments?

Sorry, but no.  This group has a marketing focus and is not a critique group.

I don’t know how to write a query letter?  How should I format my resume?  What should a cover letter look like?

On the Binge Group site, there are several folders with sample resumes, cover letters, and resumes.  They’ll provide some good models for you.

When did the Binge start?

The first Binge started in 2002, when Patrick Gabridge issued the challenge to a dozen or so writers and set up an e-mail list.  The group has grown steadily over the years and now has more than 450 playwrights from around the world.

What if I have other questions?

You can either post them to the list, or contact the list owner/moderator, Patrick Gabridge, at


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This online version of THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare is from Open Source Shakespeare (

Play menu:

Read Act III, Scene 1 here:

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(Alison Gzowski's article appeared in the Globe and Mail, 2/26.)

A foot in the sand, a foot in the snow

Your books are not just crime stories, but crime is a prism through which we see the world. Why are we so drawn to see the world that way?

We who live today are not that different from people a couple of thousand years ago. Go way back to ancient Greek drama. What did they write about? Take Medea. It’s a play about a woman who murders her two children because of jealousy. If that is not a crime story, I don’t know what it is. The difference is, Greek society had nothing called the police; they sorted things out in other ways. But if there had been police, I am certain there would have been police in the play. So the Greeks realized early on that to use the mirror of crime to look at contradictions within a society, between exterior man and interior man, between dream and reality, is one of the most efficient ways of telling a story.

(Read more)

Teatro Avenida:

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(Paul Taylor's review appeared in the Independent, 2/25.)

Ghosts, Duchess Theatre, London

Further proof that English theatreis going through a wonderfully positive patch is furnished now with this terrifically compelling and often disarmingly comic account of Ibsen's Ghosts. Not only is actor Iain Glen making a most distinguished debut as a director, but he is turning in a witheringly satiric performance as Pastor Manders, the sanctimonious clerical hypocrite whose real God is not the Lord but his own fearfully guarded personal reputation in a community of small-minded backbiters.

My only niggle (and it was gradually eroded as the production proceeded) is Glen's accent that at first seems to waver between a poor man's Ian Paisley and Gardeners' Question Time. Apart from that, his performance and that of Malcolm Storry, as Engstrand, the dodgy carpenter, are masterly demonstrations of how Dickensian in his treatment of religiose humbug Ibsen can sometimes be. This wretched pair have profile-to-profile false piety contests here that are exquisitely well judged.

(Read more)

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This online version of THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare is from Open Source Shakespeare (

Play menu:

Read Act II, Scene 3 here:

Visit Stage Voices blog:


(Philip Boroff's article appeared on Bloomberg, 2/26.)


New York’s Roundabout Theatre Co., stung last season by a decline in contributions and investment income, says it’s “starting to see signs of an improved outlook.”

The city’s largest nonprofit theater said in a bond disclosure yesterday that “single ticket sales for the fall season have been very strong,” offsetting a decrease in annual subscription sales.

The statement gave no sales figures for season-to-season comparison. A spokesman declined a request for an interview.

(Read more)

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(Mark Fisher's article appeared in the Guardian, 2/24.  The above video is from the Sydney production.)

The City

Tron, Glasgow

Martin Crimp's 2008 play is defined by political movements way beyond the suburban garden of Chris and Clair. No exchange between this professional ­couple is complete without some allusion to torture, warfare and abuse. The strain on their relationship – which goes from frosty to frigid in the taut ­performances of Ronnie Simon and Selina Boyack – is a consequence of a social order in which brute power is everything.

The tension that grows between them has the familiar symptoms of jealousy and vulnerability, but its causes are the violence of an inhumane society. When Clair tells Chris to impose his will – just as he is at his lowest, most emasculated ebb – it is a demand that calls to mind the soldiers who have brutalised the population of an unnamed foreign city and of the indifferent capitalist system that has robbed him of his job.

(Read more)

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(David Lister’s article appeared in the Independent, 2/26.)

The man behind the mask: Andrew Lloyd Webber on his new musical Love Never Dies

The Phantom of the Opera is back in the musical Love Never Dies. Andrew Lloyd Webber tells Edward Seckerson how he came up with the story, composed the music and takes criticism

The Lord works in mysterious ways. For years now Andrew Lloyd Webber has nursed the idea of a sequel to his most successful show, The Phantom of the Opera; for years Phantom fans have pondered what might have become of him after that "final exit". Nightly he vanishes from his subterranean lair deep in the bowels of the Paris Opera House (aka Her Majesty's Theatre in London) leaving only his iconic half-mask as a reminder of his continuing omnipotence on stages throughout the world: 149 cities across 86 countries.

(Read more)

Visit Stage Voices blog for video:


This online version of THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare is from Open Source Shakespeare (

Play menu:

Read Act II, Scene 2 here:

Visit Stage Voices blog: