Back at the end of June, I went to the Orinda Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in the Siesta Valley to see a Cal Shakes performance of The Tempest. I had not read nor seen the play before, so it was a fun little excursion into the woods. Literally. The amphitheater looks out onto land owned by the local water district. There are wild turkeys and a warning on the Theater’s website that says the coyote sounds are actually coyotes. Novel idea.
Cal Shakes evidently used to be just that, a California Shakespeare experience. In seasons past, Cal Shakes would gather the players for four installments of classic William Shakespeare. While their repertoire has diversified, and their mission and vision grown to emphasize their desire to expand theater arts in the community and specifically with youth programs, the primary focus for this particular lovely June evening was The Tempest.
Now, for those of you who were also unfamiliar with the play until this moment, The Tempest is about a deposed royal who gains vengeance and eventually peace and reinstatement to his lordly title by means of magic. The play constantly stresses what a benevolent and masterful use of magic is his exercise of it, however, to me he seemed mostly a bully. There is also a humorous sub-plot about drunkards, and, really, who wouldn’t enjoy that.
My friend, Valerie, and her folks have had season tickets for a very long time—they are second row in front and exactly center. This season they have an extra ticket, of which I’ve been very appreciative to accept. So, off we went on what was a lovely “summer” day in the Bay area. The play was fun, well acted, perhaps a little heavy on the feminine side of the stage, and the actors did well assuming multiple roles throughout the night. Act 1 starts with a storm that shipwrecks Prospero’s enemies on the island where he is now banished. The storm is conjured by Prospero himself aided by his sprite Ariel. California did its duty and induced quite a bit of realism into the setting with a “light” fog that set in during the first act (which had to be wiped from the set several times in the second), and made the scene very tangible when the characters had to go wandering around in a thick fog that really was.
All in all, I had a great time. I love the theater in most ways that it comes. So bring on the rains, Prospero, and the storms. I’ll be here watching.