Saturday, May 24, 2008

All the Blessings of a Glad Father

I have been asked on more than one occasion over the last three months, “Why The Tempest?”

The first impulse, and the most superficial, came while directing Macbeth for Socrates Sculpture Park’s Halloween Harvest Festival. If you have ever been out to Socrates, you are no doubt aware of the unique design of their cobblestone stage. As wonderful as that performance space was in the role of Macbeth’s the blasted heath, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be even better standing in for Prospero’s not so deserted island.

Beyond that impulse, the compelling reason to produce The Tempest for me is Prospero’s relationship with his daughter. It is because of his tenderness and care with Miranda that Playlab NYC celebrates Father’s Day with The Tempest.

Shakespeare’s plays are filled with fathers. In Linda E. Boose’s article “The Father and the Bride in Shakespeare,” she points out that fathers and sons appear in the action of twenty-three of the plays in the canon, and fathers and daughters in twenty-one. Unfortunately few of Will’s patriarchs are deserving of neckties or homemade ashtrays. Oh sure, we hear wonderful things said about King Hamlet, but none of the dead king’s actions on stage amount to much more than, “Me, me, me.” No one wants to be a stepchild in the household of Titus Andronicus. And the less said about Lear’s parenting skills the better.

But in The Tempest, we have a father who genuinely cares for his child’s well-being. Prospero has his faults of course, which parent among us doesn’t. Like Shakespeare’s famous magician, I’m not always very patient with my two-year-old, and I worry that my son isn’t listening to me as closely as he should. Between you and me, I too look forward to my child’s nap time so that I can plot revenge with my imaginary friends. As a father though, I would certainly use all the power at my command to see to my son’s education and happiness.

Prospero’s character lapses never get in the way of his relationship to his daughter. He tells Miranda early in the play, “I have done nothing but in care of thee.” As an audience we never are given reason to doubt him. Prospero is the most successful parent of all of Shakespeare’s fathers. I hope that you will come out and join our celebration of dads this Father’s Day weekend.

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