PROSPERA – la Señora de la Isla: “La Tempestad”

Presented by Trinity Repertory Company with Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA)
Originally Written by William Shakespeare
Translated to Spanish by Orlando Hernandez
Directed by Tatyana-Marie Carlo

June 28 through July 27, 2018
Toured around Rhode Island. Schedule with locations is HERE
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Review by Bishop C. Knight

(Roger Williams Park, Providence, Rhode Island)  This bilingual English-Spanish adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest was part of the Rhode Island Latino Arts’s (RILA) program Teatro en El Verano (Theater in the Summer).  It was directed by the Brown/Trinity second-year Tatyana-Marie Carlo, who was drawn to the humor and magic of The Tempest.  Carlo’s ensemble cast performed the play in a hybrid Spanglish, switching back and forth between the two languages mid-stanza, sometimes mid-line.

For example, at 1.2.320 Prospera commanded to Caliban “¡So slave, vete!”  Later in the same scene after Ferdinand enters and Miranda believes he is thing divine, Prospera corrects her daughter with “Noooo, mi niña.”  A few lines later Miranda pleads with her mother “Madre, make not too rash a trial of [Ferdinand].” The most extensive translations begin to occur in Act Two Scene One, when the dialogue between Sebastian and Antonio was exchanged in Spanish, translated so that the play’s elements of prejudice and colonialism were minimized.   To provide another example, at line 271 Hernandez changed “My brother’s servants” to the more familial “Aquí son tus hermanos” by eliminating the word servant.

The production team decided to make Ferdinand unused to Spanish.  In Act Three Scene One, when Ferdinand and Miranda are alone and swapping sweet nothings to one another, Miranda is obviously fluent in Spanish and effortlessly bilingual, with a larger share of her part spoken in Spanish that easily flows from her lips, while Ferdinand hesitantly stutters and stumbles with the language, and most of his lines are uttered in English.  For instance, at line 38, after speaking almost exclusively in English, Ferdinand finally tries to ask “¿Cómo … te … llamas?” – a basic question that he has trouble completing.

Something transcendent about Shakespeare is the inherent intensity of his plays’ emotion and subtext.  Shakespearean characters are liberal with death wishes and colorful with name-calling. There are lots of “would thou mightst lie drowning” [1.1.58] and “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself” [1.2.319].  (Can you imagine saying this to an annoying neighbor or to a coworker who is shirking their responsibilities. That would be moxy; some major Elizabethan moxy.) When translating The Tempest, Orlando Hernandez played with the volume of the languages’ intensity.  I have already mentioned the moment when bigotry was replaced with brotherhood by removal of the word servant, but later in the play Hernandez decided to turn up the intensity.  In Act Three Scene Three, the actor playing Ariel angrily hammered out in Spanish thirty-five lines of essentially a guilty verdict, telling Alonso and Antonio and Sebastian that Prospera is fully aware of their crimes against her and that they should be grateful she has not killed them already. It was such a fiercely delivered decree that Judge Judy couldn’t have done better, and everyone in the audience was left thinking “CARAY.  Sin duda, estos pendejos son sinvergüenzas.”

I really love having Shakespeare in my life.  In fact, before attending this play, I realized I was re-reading the Oxford Shakespeare book that I had first read exactly twenty years ago in 1998, when I was exactly the age of the character Miranda, which is fifteen.  With that realization I felt a warm nostalgia / kinship / gratitude for this tradition of literature that has been thriving since the 1620s. What’s so cool and organic about melding Shakespeare with Spanish is the natural evolution of the literary tradition.  There are about fifty million Spanish speakers in the United States at this moment. (I say that proudly, Donald — thou poisonous knave, very likely spawned by the devil himself.) And Spanish-speaking kids and teens were present at the show I attended. Although they were squirmy and distracted by their picnic dinners, they were also being exposed to Shakespeare, so it was equally an entertaining and educational evening.

This production has wrapped up, but I believe it was a significant addition to the centuries-long tradition of interpreting Shakespeare, and I would like to imagine that this inconsequential review functions as remembrance that in Rhode Island in July 2018 esta obra de Shakespeare diversified and expanded with the very fun and family-friendly performance of La Tempestad.  ¡Muchísimas gracias a Trinity Rep y RILA!

THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY
Alonso King of Naples
Sebastian Alonso’s brother
Ferdinand Alonso’s son
Prospera the right Duchess of Milan
Antonio the usurping Duke of Milan
Miranda daughter of Prospera
Caliban a deformed slave
Ariel an airy spirit

Rehearsal photo via RILA’s Facebook page. Credited: “With Orlando Hernández at Southside Cultural Center”

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