With pages of articles, images, interviews, and activities, this Context Guide is designed to help audiences of all ages connect with the play. Read it here or grab a paper copy during the show!
Julie-Ann Elliott is portraying Ariel in The Tempest. She was a National Player for Tour 44, where she played Rosalind in As You Like It and Ma Joad in Grapes of Wrath.
Tell me about your decision to join National Players.
There were two reasons I wanted to go on tour. I was in the graduate program at Catholic University, and Bill Graham was head of the MFA acting program and chair of the department at the time. One of the reasons I went to grad school was for classical training, and while we did have a classical acting class, it didn’t feel like enough. It seemed intimidating and untouchable because it was that thing that I had never done. I was also very close with some people who had been on tour prior to coming to Catholic, so I had all of their fraternal stories which seemed wonderful and inviting, and you were a part of this huge brother-sisterhood, and I wanted to be a part of that.
What was it like playing two roles back-to-back for a year, and did you get the training that you wanted?
I feel like I did. I had some classical training at Catholic, and Mr. Graham was our acting coach for the Players as well, but this was much more intensive. So yes, you have to grow, and you have to know what you’re doing enough to keep within the boundaries of the direction. You have to know two versions of both shows, so you have to know the text inside and out and be able to make the jumps you need to. To me, it was more important to think about how to approach the characters and tell the story. You need to know what the language means and you need to make it feel like your own, and I was more concerned with that than scanning and marking.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned as a Player?
The actors are loading and unloading the truck, and we all had to put the set together, we all had to screw the lights on the truss, so everybody is a part of the whole process. One of the big things is learning how to be a part of a team, knowing you’ve got a job to do and everybody has to do their part. I’ve gone into theaters with bigger budgets and with people who’ve always worked equity or don’t remember not working equity, and there’s an expectation that things will always be taken care of. Although I often have those expectations myself, being a Player puts you in the mindset of “We have a job to do and we’re going to make it work.” Continue reading
“Alchemists grow old and die in the embraces of their illusion…the achievements of the magicians are unsure and fruitless. Those practices are openly convicted of vanity, and the secret and remotest loft tower’ of the magician’s pride must be abandoned if he is to come ‘close to things.’ The real truth is that the obstacle to the course I propose lies…in human pride…it is this pride that has brought men to such a pitch of madness that they prefer to commune with their own spirits rather than with the spirit of nature.”
– Frances Bacon, a major opponent of occultism during the reign of King James I
According to the Arden edition of The Tempest, Shakespeare made some very diliberate naming choices with this play. These include:
- Prospero means “prosperous,” “fortunate”
- Miranda is a play on the word “wonder”
- Caliban is an anagram of “cannibal”
- Trinculo derives from a word for excessive drinking
- Stephano derives from an Italian word for stomach
- Ferdinant means “brave journey”
- Ariel means”God’s lion”
“The action on this island is mainly geographic movement writ small. The first four acts conclude with an invitation to move on: ‘Come, follow,’ ‘Lead the way,’ ‘Follow, I pray you,’ ‘Follow and do me service.’ The characters perambulate in small groups from one part of the island to another; only at Prospero’s final invitation, ‘pray you, draw near,’ do they join in one place…The sense of continual movement contributes to the play’s elusiveness.”
— Excerpted from the introduction to the Arden edition of The Tempest
“…In the late 16th century, harnessing invisible spirit power was essentially the same kind of challenge as harnessing the invisible power of the wind. It was complicated, you needed to be highly educated, but if you could do it -rather like improving the technology of your ship’s sails, the world and its wealth were at your feet. Reaching the spirit realm however, was a touch more complicated than improving your ship.”
— New Science, Old Magic: Dr Dee’s Magical Mirror, A BBC radio program