A VR Tempest is Coming and I Want It.

I’ve been doing this blog for a long, long time. It’s been a natural crossover to look for ways that technology is used in innovative ways to tackle Shakespeare. We need to get back into more of that. I’ve been missing some good stuff.

An “Oculus” is a virtual reality headset. I know it as the Oculus Rift but I guess there are different models now. I think Facebook owns them. You’ve no doubt seen them, if even in a science fiction movie – you strap the goggles over your head, then the immersive experience that’s shown to you moves around as you do. I actually got to watch some Hamlet like this once, it’s pretty cool. My experience was only what they call a “360 video”, where you can’t move – you can only spin your head around like an owl. In a true VR setting you can actually move around.

https://www.engadget.com/the-under-presents-tempest-oculus-rift-view-225750213.html

So I’m trying to understand what this game / performance called The Under Presents is, but it sounds pretty neat. They’re doing The Tempest next, and it’s a live show – you need to get tickets.

The play will feature a single actor who, in the play’s narrative, was supposed to play Prospero in a proper stage show. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, their in-person performance was canceled.

I have no idea what’s actually going to happen within the show but I can see them taking the whole “These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air” thing in a whole new direction. I am imagine the actor as Prospero pointing his staff into blank space, conjuring up a Miranda or Ferdinand, and *poof* your headset comes to life, you are in the show, you are Ferdinand. Maybe you get a script? This is all technology, maybe it just goes ahead and walks and talks for you, driving you like auto pilot and you’re just along for the ride. I can think of all kinds of crazy things that might happen.

Anybody out there got one of these headsets and can spend the couple of bucks to check it out?

Guest Post : Shakespeare’s Travels

Scotland – the famous setting for Macbeth

Should you ever decide to embark on a tour of the locations of Shakespeare’s plays you’d find yourself with a long itinerary. The bard’s quill pen roamed the world, from Egypt and Syria to Scotland – this blog has even provided a handy map. Some places, such as England and Italy, were, of course, frequently visited by his imagination. Others, such as Austria (Measure for Measure) and Cyprus (Othello) he only visited once.

Shakespeare shaped these foreign lands to suit his stories. Greece (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Two Noble Kinsmen, etc.), Wales (Cymbeline, Richard II, Henry IV P1) and Turkey (The Comedy of Errors, Troilus & Cressida, etc.) were made the settings for comedy, tragedy, romance, and history. The world truly was his stage to dress – in fact, most of his plays are set abroad, the Globe Theatre, therefore, becoming an actual microcosm of our globe.

Some locations are famously linked with his plays. Who, after all, would not know that Hamlet is set in Denmark? Other links are, perhaps, a little more obscure. Lebanon featuring in Pericles, for example, or the former Yugoslavia (specifically, the area known as Illyria) in Twelfth Night.

Dubrovnik, once the centre of the Republic of Ragusa in the ancient region of Illyria

Are visitors to Spain’s Basque Country aware that they’re following in the footsteps of the characters in Love’s Labour’s Lost? The location of the French court in All’s Well That Ends Well is a little unclear, but it isn’t hard to imagine Helena and Bertram amidst the grand buildings of Carcassonne. I’m also a fan of the vague Mediterranean setting of The Tempest, which allows me to imagine Prospero roaming Malta, or Menorca, or perhaps Sardinia.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, famous even in Shakespeare’s day

How did Shakespeare know about these far-flung places? As the No Sweat Shakespeare blog once mentioned, even travel between Stratford-Upon-Avon and London was no mean feat. Shakespeare, therefore, didn’t have direct experience of these locations – it was 40 years after Shakespeare’s death when The Grand Tour made foreign travel popular amongst the English elite. Instead he took inspiration from historical texts and other stories (including Italian novellas) – Egypt, for example, has always been well-known to the western world and descriptions of its ancient sites would not have been hard to come by.

The world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open” – the world isn’t currently our oyster to open, but with Shakespeare’s stages on shores near and distant, perhaps we can, for now, take a little peek and plan for the day when we follow the footsteps of his far-flung characters.

Olly loves to travel and has visited over 80 countries and all 7 continents. He also likes to explore the world through the medium of literature and enjoys matching famous locations with the places he’s been to. Olly runs travel planning blog APlanToGo.com, on which you can download free, highly detailed itineraries for destinations across the globe.

I Knew I Wasn’t Crazy!

This is not a loon, and neither am I.

Back in November, I had a bit of a reality distortion moment as I found evidence that a story I’d always told as having happened in 2008 actually happened in 2004. Specifically, we’re talking about a production of The Tempest that I took my kids to see. Their first one, in fact.  The one I use as the foundation when I tell people about my kids’ relationship with Shakespeare. Only, if it happened in 2004, I only had one kid.

But I was right after all!  Looking through old pictures this weekend I found more from that production, with my other two kids clearly included.  I knew I wasn’t losing my mind.  These pictures were, in fact, dated 2008.  That gave me an idea I should have thought of in the first place.  I used my own darned search function…

And look what I found. August 2008. I actually posted about it several times both before and after the show, it was quite a milestone event for me.

Oh I feel so much better now. 🙂

 

 

My World Turned Upside Down

For years, whenever I brag about my kids’ connection to Shakespeare, I’ve said that my son saw his first production of The Tempest while he was still in his stroller.

This weekend my daughter was going through a box of pictures and held one up, asking, “Who is this?”  I recognized the picture immediately as she had it tucked into her dressing table mirror for years.

Sorry for the quality, it’s literally a picture of a picture.  The guy in the nylon mask in the background isn’t about to rob us all, he was one of the spirits roaming the set and making noises.  This outdoor production was literally in the middle of a strip mall and people occasionally just walked right through the set.  Who cares, I loved it.  Practically guerilla Shakespeare.

“That’s…”

“…Caliban,” I hear my wife’s voice behind me.

I was momentarily speechless.  “…Caliban.  Yes.  Really?  You remember that?”

My wife seems to think it’s no big deal.  “The Tempest.  We went down the Cape.”  For my part, whenever a beautiful woman gets one of my Shakespeare references my first reaction is almost always, “Oh, I’ve got to marry you.”  Lucky for me this time! 🙂

“Sorry,” I say to my daughter, regaining my composure.  “Just falling in love with your mother all over again.  That was the first production that we were invited to.  One of my social media followers invited me to come and we hung out with the cast afterward.  Your brother kept freaking out about Caliban, pointing and yelling, “Monster!””  I flip the picture over.  It is dated 2004 — two years before my son was born  “Whoa.  Your brother wasn’t even born when we went?  I’ve been telling that story wrong all these years?  I guess it was you in the stroller.”

My daughter considers the picture.  She notes the month.  “My birthday’s in August.  I wasn’t born yet for this picture either.”

I was completely flabbergasted.  All these years my memory was of taking three children to this production, and I only had one child at the time?  Unbelievable.

I had to share that story with everybody.  Ben Berry, now the artistic director of Peregrine Theatre Ensemble in Provincetown, MA originally extended the invitation (but that is not him in the picture).  I wonder if he’s still reading and if he remembers us?  Hi Ben!

 

Ariel Stays On The Island, And I Just Can’t Even

I’ve admitted on plenty of occasions that I still have a lot to learn about Shakespeare. In fact, it is when I learn something new that I am again thrown back into my love for the subject as I run to the text and visit with my old friends again.

I have always, always read the end of The Tempest as:

  1. Ariel, now freed, disappears. Where does he go? Don’t know. Not sure we can even fathom the possibility. Ariel being an “aerie spirit,” could be pan-dimensional for all I know. Prospero says go, and he’s gone. I loved Mr. Teller’s interpretation where Ariel does a vanishing act, literally disappearing before our eyes.
  2. Caliban is left alone to be king of his island, a civilization of one, as he always wanted.

So it came as quite a shock last week when I was shown a line I’d never really noticed before.  As he prepares for his upcoming freedom, Ariel says:

Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

And my world changed. After all their time together, Prospero frees Ariel and Ariel basically just heads off to the other side of the island?  I imagine him sitting in a hammock sipping a drink out of a coconut like something from Gilligan’s Island. He might as well have said, “I miss my cloven pine, it was a little snug but really quite comfortable once you got used to it.”

I hate that so much. That means that, for starters, Caliban is not left alone on the island as he wanted. Worse, he doesn’t even have a kingdom, because Ariel’s not about to listen to him. Ariel and Caliban hate each other. So now I envision the ending of my favorite play with Caliban trying to be left alone and Ariel, now bored silly, forever tormenting him because there’s nothing else to do.

Somebody tell me I read that wrong, and the play isn’t completely ruined for me. I really hate that ending.  My way, everybody – even Caliban – gets a happy ending.  As it should be. This way doesn’t even make any sense. Wouldn’t Ariel want to escape the island as soon as he is able? He’s been a slave here for all those years, so he’ll celebrate his freedom by hanging around? I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.