OSF's 'Tempest' is tempestuous

I am glad Angus Bowmer is not alive to see how "deeper than did ever plummet sound" his reputation is sinking among traditional Shakespeare lovers and theatergoers. Certain Ashland productions are the challenge. One year Julius Caesar is costumed in Desert Storm paraphernalia, complete with gas masks! Henry V has a TV set on the stage with scene changes posted, the presumption being an ignorant audience?

This year's disheartening production of the Tempest is no exception. The director (who shall remain nameless) has seen to it that sex and race changes have taken place before the play begins which only serves to confuse the audience. Sebastian, Prospero's white brother is now his black sister. Prospero is also black, so when Miranda (who is white) asks him if he is her father the audience twitters nervously. Ariel is not a man, as Shakespeare intends, but a woman; and nor is she the "dainty spirit" of Shakespeare's pen but more a caricature of Britney Spears in her underwear appearance on the MTV Music Video awards.

The costuming is drab, in mostly blacks and grays. The stage is drab. Imagine a burned out forest with a few tree stumps sticking up in the air, that's the stage. In Shakespeare's most enchanting and symbolically rich play, there is no "lime grove that weather fends" Prospero's cell, not a hint of one. Two extraneous sonnets from Shakespeare's youth are inserted into the Revels scene near the end of the play and other lines are cut to make room for them. And so on.

This is the kind of theater that Mr. Bowmer (with a little help from his friends) sought to change by founding the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the first place. His idea was to return Shakespeare to the stage for which it is written, not rewrite him or subject his genius to whim. He's been suffering this indignity in one form or another for nearly 400 years.

Thankfully, one director's tenure ends this year. Tempest is her going-away present. Maybe the new guy on the block will help restore Shakespeare to his original prominence; and both Bowmer and the Bard will be able to smile again (from on high). Let lesser festivals around the world &

which have not as yet learned the trick of greatness &

continue to do silly stuff with the Bard.

Ashland, I would like to think, expects a tad more.

Terry Campbell

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