Lisa Jensen Online Express
Adventures in writing with Lisa Jensen, Author, Columnist and Film Critic
published February 14, 2020 by Lisa Jensen
Heads up, Shakespeare fans! Our own Santa Cruz Shakespeare has announced its lineup for this year’s summer festival season — and since it revolves around two of my favorite Shakespeare plays, I could not be more excited!
As in recent summers past, the season opener will be a non-Shakespearean offering, in this case A Flea In Her Ear, the classic French farce by Georges Feydeau, from the turn of the last century. This story of marital mistrust, miscommunication, mistaken identities and reconciliation gets a spanking new adaptation by David Ives (whose adaptation of Moliere’s The Liar, back in 2015, was one of the funniest productions in the company’s history).
Next up will be Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s lively comedy of romantic complications when a young woman shipwrecked on a foreign shore disguises herself as a young man to seek employment. Full of swift banter, unrequited passion, even a little swordplay, it’s an adroit comedy of love, gender, and identity that never goes out of style.
But I may be most excited about The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play, and the grand finale of his career, a gorgeous feast of magic and redemption. Duke Prospero, the sorcerer, is usurped by his conniving brother and exiled with his daughter to an uncharted island. With help of his spirit familiars, he causes a shipwreck that delivers his enemies into his power for a day of retribution, romance, and — ultimately — reconciliation.
The Tempest is categorized as a romance (what we might call in modern parlance magic realism), depending on magic, spells, and sorcery to advance the plot. With its scheming royals, drunken clowns, young lovers, antic, otherworldly spirits, disappearing banquets, and exuberant pageantry (as well as its undercurrent of slavery vs. freedom), its effects can be as subtle or spectacular as the playmakers can dream up.
One previous production of the play (in the company’s former incarnation as Shakespeare Santa Cruz) used Balinese shadow puppets and masks to convey the magical elements. In another, director Danny Scheie riffed on Gilligan’s Island, with uneven results, but also included a magnificent Ariel, Prospero’s chief magical minion, soaring above the action on a trapeze.
A more recent production, set in the Art Noveau era, emphasized the story’s humanism, the burgeoning cult of Nature, and the merging of spiritualism with the supernatural.
This will be the company’s fourth production of The Tempest, and its first-ever helmed by Artistic Director Mike Ryan, making his debut in the director’s chair. I can’t wait! Especially since my next novel (under construction as we speak) imagines the further adventures of Prospero’s daughter!
The recurring themes of shipwreck and redemption in this year’s playlist prompts Ryan to adopt Sea Change as this season’s unofficial title. As he explains it, “All of our 2020 plays center around someone (or someones) who are shipwrecked, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and sometimes in both ways. These stories ask questions about how we find our way past disaster, impotence, and emotional stagnancy to find fertile ground in renewed joy, love, and hope.”
Finding our way past disaster through love and hope could not be more timely, in our current cultural climate. But, here, I’ll let Mike tell you all about it himself!
Meanwhile — full steam ahead!