by Gail Burns and Roseann Cane
Gail Burns: More and more people I talk to tell me that “The Tempest” is their favorite Shakespearean play, and I have to say that it has become mine too. This may be a process of aging, or it may be that this is just the perfect Shakepeare play for a modern audience. It combines everything we love about the Bard in just the right measure – family drama, clowns, power struggles, fairies, young lovers. Everything is proportionate and, as they say about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes and it will change.
Roseann Cane: This season Shakespeare & Company is presenting two Shakespearean plays that center on powerful, mature, complex characters: “King Lear,” which we both loved, and now “The Tempest.” Director Tony Simotes has set the play in an “island somewhere in the Mediterranean, circa 1939,” and he has cast renowned actress Olympia Dukakis as Prospero, or Prospera, in this case.
Although Prospero has been feminized before—most recently, by Helen Mirren in the 2010 film adaptation—this was my first meeting with Prospera. For the sake of clarity (at least my own!), I’ll refer to the character as Shakespeare named him/her, Prospero, in our discussion.
Gail: I too prefer Prospero to refer to the character, but I am fascinated by the gender switch, which has also been done on the big time stage by Vanessa Redgrave and Blair Brown and undoubtedly many, many times in less well promoted productions.