By Amanda Trombley
When we agreed to direct the huge undertaking that is The Tempest, there was one part that intimidated me more than any other- more than staging a shipwreck or the other magical moments- the Masque. See, we don’t have many modern theatrical conventions that match the function of an early modern Masque. A Masque is a piece of the play that may highlight a theme of the play but does not really further the action- the closest parallel I can think of is a piece in a musical that doesn’t further the plot per say, but might show off something impressive about one of the actors or a technical trick in the production such as a lavish dance number for its own sake or lots of fancy pyrotechnics. I was seriously tempted to cut as much of the Masque as possible, but Dan encouraged me to keep a great deal of it and see what happened in rehearsals. I told him we had a deal, as long as we brought in an outside choreographer. Luckily, Shelby graciously obliged to be our choreographer so we only had to worry about setting the shadow play.
The Masque happens pretty late in the play, to celebrate the love of Ferdinand and Miranda. A little history that I shared with the cast before we started working on this section of the play: Masques were all the rage and focused on spectacle more than anything else. Masques were also often done in private houses, not just public theatres. They would be performed to celebrate feasts and especially wedding or engagement celebrations, which is why it is done in The Tempest. Masques were used to help get the bride ready for the wedding night. In this particular Masque, there are some bawdy references and some patriarchal moments which, rather than trying to hide, we leaned into and tried to make more prominent. We also embraced some silly aspects and the extraordinary characters of Iris, the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, Ceres, goddess of the harvest and fertility, and Juno, goddess of marriage. Before l knew it, the Masque had become a favorite part of the play. We hope it will become one of your favorites too. From the pastoral spirits, to the goddesses, to the incredible amount of love that explodes out of this wacky moment in the play, just remember that it’s a celebration. Taste the rainbow.
The Tempest returns to the the Brelby Studio on Oct 2nd @ 7:30pm for the second weekend of performances.
Get your tickets by clicking the image below.