For the first time in about 20 years I’m in the cast of a play—a production of The Tempest. Picking up the script for The Tempest was a natural act for me, one I did not realise I had missed so much. Having spent a couple of decades of my younger life involved with theatre—primarily in production and stage management, but also on stage, it is not surprising that when given sufficient motivation I returned to this early and long lasting passion.
It is the chance to work on the Tempest that resurrected my interest. It is a wonderful work—magic and revenge and hope and transformation all woven together. Over the years I’ve been exposed to post-colonial, Christian, mystical and queer interpretations of The Tempest as well as productions that tried to emulate the way the play would have been done in Shakespeare’s time. The text readily lends itself to different interpretations, perhaps being less of a time bound work and one innately renewing itself.
Being a part of a production of The Tempest is being a part of the long tradition of ensuring that the plays of Shakespeare are not treated as a relic or an icon, but rather a part of a living and evolving cultural tradition. This is inherently satisfying and fulfilling.
More personally, there is something self-completing in performing. At times I feel incomplete, less tangible than I might be (late middle age may have something to do with this). But in reading a script and working with others to bring these words to life in a way that touches strangers I find myself feeling more myself. In learning to be someone else I feel more completely in touch with my essence, more rooted in my own life.
Being on stage connects me to the world that has embraced many members of my family over the years. From my father building sets for the Sault Theatre Workshop after a long night at Algoma Steel or my sister being on the board of Theatre Ontario, there is a tradition in my family (in addition to the political activism and seeking ways of living out a challenging faith) of being connected to the most communal of art forms.
While my ego does enjoy the attention one gets on stage, there is more personal attention paid giving a reading of one’s own poetry or in preaching than one gets in being part of a cast of a play. On stage one is both more and less than one’s self—one’s identity is focused on making an illusion believable, which requires a depth of understanding of one’s self and the range of human possibilities in order to successfully achieve.
Over the next few months I’ll be devoting more attention to acting than new co-op and affordable housing initiatives—-something rare for me to do. But I will be involved in a communal effort to bring to life something that wasn’t there before.