the tempest

The Tempest

June 2014

From October 2013 to June 2014, Phyllis Gorfain led seventeen men in a study of and rehearsals for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Their profound process, brilliantly co-directed by student directors Julia Melfi (who assisted in the Fall study of the script), and Katy Early, was further guided by the extensive and passionate assistance (including choreography) of college sophomore, Lillian White, pursuing an individual major in Cultural Performance. Starting in March, 2014, Amy Jackson-Smith, junior English major, joined the team of talented Oberlin assistant directors. The process was also greatly enhanced by master classes offered by Oberlin theatre professors and directors, Justin Emeka, Caroline Jackson-Smith, and Paul Moser and by Equity actor and Shakespeare specialist, Lara Mielcarek. Curt Tofteland, founding director of Shakespeare Behind Bars, now operating in prisons in Kentucky and Michigan, also supported the ODAG company with a powerful session two weeks before the show opened in early June, 2014.

Following are selected pages from the program created by members of ODAG. To view a page, hover the cursor over the corresponding page number in the column on the left.

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Page 1

By joining the journeys of the characters in Shakespeare's island world, similar processes of individual and shared growth were achieved by actors and directors as we rehearsed and performed The Tempest. Embracing our shared humanity with the characters of this play, however lost, tortured, drunk, foolish, selfish, or ruthless they each are, we, like Prospero, were able behold others as ourselves. Indeed, ODAG's successful production of The Tempest helped everyone—actors and directors and audiences—find themselves "in [this] poor isle...when no man was his own" and join Caliban in suing to "seek grace" through humility and humanity.

Here are three excerpts from the ODAG performance.

Ariel Requests "Probation"

Prospero Forgives His Enemies

Prospero's Epilogue

Clearly this play speaks powerfully to audiences, as well as actors and directors, if we recognize their resemblance to characters in this play. Most of the characters are stranded on a strange island, cut off from contact with all they have known before, tested and transformed through deprivation and new learning; several are enslaved by those who exert force through physical torture; all encounter forbidding situations they find bewildering or trying. All but one of them achieves liberation, but only by breaking the bands self-pity, anger, or needs for retribution. Antonio alone does not attain freedom because he refuses the self-knowledge and self-forgiveness that others achieve when they acknowledge a shared humanity with both victims and their oppressors, breaking cycles of violence and retribution.

At four performances of The Tempest, highly appreciative audiences, including family, friends, the general population of GRC, and guests from Northeast Ohio, reported they found the show powerful in many ways. The interaction of audiences and performers has been transformative for both.