On June 18-19, 2011, the Lensic Performing Arts Center in collaboration with Santa Fe Pro Musica will present Richard Clifford’s multi-genre adaptation of Tempest, based on and inspired by William Shakespeare’s play. Sir Derek Jacobi and Clifford will be joined by local actor and director Achushla Bastible in performing selections from The Tempest. The Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble under the direction of Thomas O’Connor will feature music inspired by Shakespeare’s most musical play and be accompanied by soloist Deborah Domanski (mezzo-soprano) and David Farwig (baritone) who will perform compositions by Matthew Locke, John Bannister, and Handel among others. This theatrical concert will also have settings from Thomas Shadwell’s Restoration operatic treatment of The Tempest (1674) as well as nautical arias from Handel’s operas. Tempest was adapted for and first performed by the Folger Consort, the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D.C.) for whom Richard Clifford has directed a number of works, including his 2007 adaptation The Fairy Queen, a theatrical concert adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In a telephone conversation on May 19, 2011, with Lensic Managing Director Bob Martin, I inquired about the process involved in bringing this all-star event, featuring world-class performers Jacobi and Clifford, to Santa Fe. John F. Andrews, President of the The Shakespeare Guild and a much-honored educator, author, editor, lecturer and administrator, knew of Tempest and thought the people of Santa Fe would appreciate and support it. Bob mentioned how this project is “near and dear” to Richard Clifford: “I began talking to him [Clifford] and discovered that he’d be in New York City [in the narrow window that existed between commitments of the principal performers following Jacobi’s Brooklyn Academy of Music run of King Lear and future commitments]…We began talking and Tom O’Connor [of Pro Musica] was soon brought in [on the project]….Bit by bit the event came together. They [Jacobi and Clifford] had no agent or manager for this program] were very generous cost-wise and showed an interest in wanting to see the piece done in Santa Fe. There was a lot of work done on everyone’s part and any number of things could have gone wrong.” Bob Martin praised the helpfulness of the Folger Library and directed me to John Andrews for more of the backstory on this event.
In a telephone interview on May 20, 2011, with John Andrews, I discovered his long connection to Derek Jacobi: “I met him in 1985 in Washington D.C. when the Royal Shakespeare Company was touring Much Ado about Nothing (with Sinead Cusack). I was editor of Shakespeare Quarterly and interviewed him that year.” Andrews continued to follow Jacobi’s career with interest. In 1988 Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theater Company in conjunction with the Birmingham Rep developed a touring season that provided actors Judi Dench, Geraldine McEwan, and Derek Jacobi their first classical directing opportunities. Jacobi directed Branagh in the title role of Hamlet and revealed his idiosyncratic nature by having the Dane’s most famous soliloquy spoken directly to Ophelia.
Interestingly, Andrews’ continued relationship with Derek Jacobi is intertwined with Sir John Gielgud. A holder of an honorary Order of the British Empire (OBE), Carlsbad native and current Santa Fe resident John F. Andrews who was serving as editor of THE EVERYMAN SHAKESPEARE asked Gielgud to write the forward to The Tempest. As he was preparing this edition for publication, Andrews realized that Gielgud was approaching his ninetieth birthday. Having found THE SHAKESPEARE GUILD (1987) to foster “a deeper appreciation of the world’s greatest writer” (1987), Andrews approached the star actor and received the go-ahead to establish a SIR JOHN GIELGUD AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE DRAMATIC ARTS that was first presented in 1996 at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D.C.) to Sir Ian McKellen. The following year the recipient of THE GOLDEN QUILL was Sir Derek Jacobi.
John Andrews shared with me a few Jacobi anecdotes that reveal the actor’s wit. In a symposium of the Folger Library and Smithsonian Institute after playing Hamlet’s step-father in the 1996 full-text Hamlet film by Kenneth Branagh, Jacobi quipped “I’ve cornered the market on Claudii.” (The actor’s star-making role was his portrayal of the title character in I, Claudius.) The following year the golden quill trophy was presented to Zoe Caldwell (who with her husband producer Robert Whitehead have earned the sobriquet “Mr. and Mrs. New York Theater”) who engaged in a lively debate with Jacobi about how an actor approaches the text of Shakespeare. Caldwell argued that an actor should “follow the punctuation” while Jacobi argued for “a healthy disrespect for such readings as the folio and quarto texts are not always reliable.” He went on to provide an example from Much Ado about Nothing where Benedict, alone on stage, has the line “[Beatrice] loves me, it must be requited.” Jacobi read the line by replacing the first comma with a question mark.
John Andrews also observed a contemporary interest in Shakespeare’s great tragicomedy, including Julie Traynor’s film of The Tempest and Clifford’s adaptation that followed its brief run at the Folger Library with a fund-raising performance the next month for the Julliard School of Drama. In a like manner, Andrews believed that local community needed to do something to mark the coincidence of Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary with the 400th anniversary of the debut performance of The Tempest at Whitehall, London.
Andrews finds a number of intriguing parallels between these two early seventeenth century events. The Tempest gave the world the expression ”brave new world” at the very moment a new world establishment was being created here. Caliban serves as a native guide to foreign interlopers and, in the occupation provided him (and later Ferdinand) by Prospero, cuts and carries wood until his master says “this bare island” while pointing to the bare planks of the Globe Theater. Deforestation is not an exclusively modern occurrence.
The resonances between Shakespeare and Santa Fe and the modern world are legion. In 1992, the famed Orange County Shakespeare Company (Garden Grove, CA) first performed while the Earth Summit in Rio was changing the world from East-West confrontations of the Cold War era to North-South conflicts on environmental issues. 1992 is also the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas and the first mention in print of William Shakespeare. Thus, the environmental and colonial themes in The Tempest and anniversary dates seem proliferate and point to the necessity for a Santa Fe celebration of Shakespeare which will take place in the Lensic June 18 and 19, 2011.
Finally, for those who thought their love of baseball would disqualify then from full entry into the world of the Bard be heartened. John F. Andrews served as bat boy for the 1953 “Class c” Carlsbad Potashers and one of his most cherished accomplishments in a life full of literary and educational achievement is having a letter published in Sports Illustrated. For devotees of the national pastime of which I consider myself a charter member, hope springs eternal.
TEMPESTwill be performed at the Lensic Theatre on Saturday, June 18 (7:30 PM) and on Sunday, June 19, 2011 (4 PM).
There will be a question-and-answer session with the audience after the Saturday evening performance.
Tickets are $20-$50 and can be purchased at www.lesic.org, at Tickets Santa Fe (505-988-1234) and at the Lensic Box Office (211West San Francisco Street).