by Aimee Todoroff · November 17, 2014
Treehouse Theater (located in Manhattan at 154 W. 29th Street) is hosting a marathon reading series of plays from Playing with Canons: Explosive New Works from Great Literature by America's Indie Playwrights, the anthology of 18 plays all adapted from classic drama and literature that I edited back in 2006. The next reading will be on Wednesday, November 19th (details here): Aimee Todoroff directs Larry Loebell's La Tempestad, which is inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. I asked Aimee a few questions about the play; here's what she has to say:
Q. What attracted you to LA TEMPESTAD, to make you want to direct it?
A. I'm always drawn to plays that explore the human aspect of social justice issues, and that question our notions of right and wrong. One of the reasons I love this play is that the characters, though radically, wildly updated from Shakespeare's, are so richly drawn. Each has something they are fighting for, and each is motivated by love: love of a partner, love of country, love of a child. There is no "bad guy" in this script, only people who are desperately trying to make a life for their loved ones. Unfortunately, what it takes for one person to carve out that life often conflicts with what another person needs to happen for their loved ones. Plus, there's a true sense of magic in the world the playwright, Larry Loebell, has created. I am charmed by the idea that a known place in our world- one that is accessible by a fairly cheap flight from NYC- can contain such wonders.
Q. The play contains numerous references that could have been considered topical in its time, to issues like 9/11 and the War on Terror, gay marriage, etc. Are these issues and themes still resonant?
A. These themes are still very present, though I would say the way they resonate with an audience has changed with time. The issue of gay marriage seems all the more urgent given the recent rulings in- as of this writing- 33 states to legalize gay marriage. When Trinculo declares his love for Stephano and his hopes for their future together, the audience now has a real sense of hope about the full scope of that future. When Trinculo begs Prospero to "forgive history," the audience now relates to his struggles over oppression as something they know he will triumph over. It lifts the audience, and the rest of the characters in the play, in a way that I would imagine is different than it did when his happy ending wasn't as assured. The perception of the War on Terror and 9/11 have also changed with time. We now relate much more to the concept that the War on Terror is an on-going war, one that will last decades. In this way, it actually makes it more important for Prospero to force the military to stop using the beaches as practice grounds for bombing runs. These military actions aren't an unpleasant necessity to be endured for a short period, as most people initially thought in the time just after the terror attacks. This is an outrage that has been a threat to the lives of the people of Vieques for generations and will, without Prospero's intervention, continue for generations.
Q. How will you cast the play, and what are you doing to cut it down in length?
A. Large casts are such a rarity in modern theatre, and it was a fantastic opportunity to work with 12 wonderful actors in the same play. I really tried to bring in a mix of regular collaborators, people whose work I know and admire but haven't had a chance to work with yet, and a handful of new people. The original production ran over two hours, and we have a strict 90 minute time limit for this reading series. Larry and I have had many email exchanges about how and where to cut the play, focusing on where the action could be simplified. Because the play is being done more than ten years after 9/11, as opposed to within a few years of the event, Larry took out some of the more specific references to the time that could seem dated to a contemporary audience member. The play is still very much set in 2002, when patriotic temperaments were at a fever pitch, but the play doesn't feel dated or like a period piece. In making less specific references to the national mood, Larry has achieved a kind of alchemy where he's made the themes of the play timeless.