I went to see the production of The Tempest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) a few days ago. This production is part of something called The Bridge Project, organized by the director Sam Mendes, in which British and American actors collaborate on new productions of, this time around, Shakespeare. Mendes has paired As You Like It and The Tempest for this season of The Bridge. Sam Mendes is something of a Bob Dylan aficionado: if you have seen his movie Truly, Madly, Deeply, you can enjoy hearing Alan Rickman, playing a ghost, reciting the opening lines to Tangled Up in Blue to a sleeping woman who in fact has red hair. (Thanks to commenter below, I stand corrected on this! It seems more honest to strike it out this way instead of just removing it.) And although I have not seen the As You Like It, I’ve been told that there is a fairly obvious and affectionate Dylan parody in one of the songs. I hoped for an allusion of some kind in The Tempest. And it occurred to me only now that I may have found it.
Not Caliban, played here by Ron Cephas Jones, but what he’s kneeling upon, which you should be able to make out as sand. The stage setting is dominated by a circle of sand intended to give a physical space to Prospero’s magic. Prospero observes and manipulates the action from outside the circle, and enters it to interact with those he is manipulating. Need we look any further? Aren’t these characters on this island silhouetted by the sea? And aren’t memory and fate the materials Prospero must work with to bring his plot about? He repeatedly provides characters with the stories of their own pasts, and then engineers their fates. And finally Prospero’s own tools and identity, staff and book, driven deep beneath the waves as he determines his own fate, by relinquishing his past and those inscrutable powers of his. Well, I would like to say that Mendes has provided the circle of sand where Prospero may serve as ringmaster.
I may be tireless and lunatic in my desire to find companionship in La Vita Dylan, but I wonder if anyone else who has seen this production finds any substance to my flight of fancy here.