The Tempest at New Paltz was both a well done and very unique adaption of Shakespeare’s famous romance. Each performance by the cast was well done and drew the audience in.
One choice made by director, Nancy Saklad, that changed the effect of the play was the changing of the character Prospero from male to a female Prospera. The change of gender also changes the character’s interaction with all of the characters in the play. This is shown particularly through Prospera’s relationship with Miranda and Caliban. Prospera had a much warmer relationship with her daughter Miranda that was much more affectionate than the male Prospero appeared to be in the text. The relationship between Miranda and Prospera worked better especially in the introductory scene when instead of a male Prospero aggressively berating Miranda for not listening to his speech, a mother was able to keep Miranda’s attention without being overbearing. The affection between Miranda and Prospera shown through physical contact helped to negate the tension and make the relationship seem more loving.
Similarly Prospera makes some big choices in her first interaction with Caliban, especially having Miranda standing behind her to stage right. The actress playing Prospera also used her body and props to put distance between Caliban and Miranda. This choice highlights the interpretation that Prospera is a reliable protagonist and Caliban did attempt to rape Miranda. This makes the hatred and anger from Prospera more believable. Similarly it adds depth to Miranda’s slightly out of character speech to Caliban. It makes it more understandable that the level of hatred stems from a sense of broken trust from the man they attempted to teach and that they trusted.
Another great choice made by the director was the portrayal of the of the supernatural in the play. The character of Ariel was distinguished by her costume as “other.” It worked very well and added an air of mystery to have her face visible but covered. I personally thought that was one of the better ways to show Ariel as a spirit, rather than, like in the movie version in class to put face paint on the
Overall, the best parts of the performance were the parts that took risks with the interpretation of The Tempest. The choice to make Prospera a woman also feminized the rest of the show; Alonso turned into Alonsa and Ariel also became a girl. This added a change to the whole dynamic of the play and created a more interesting idea that two younger brothers would try to plot to overthrow their sisters in power, especially given gender roles during the time period.