Target Margin Theater’s “The Tempest”
Tonight marks the opening night of Target Margin Theater’s production of The Tempest at HERE Arts Center (through May 27; tickets $25), the final show in their 20th anniversary season. Directed by Artistic Director, David Herskovits, The Tempest is a reflection on the passage of time and theater- two beautifully intertwined themes, appropriate for this anniversary season. I had conversations with David Herskovits and Steve Rattazzi, who plays Prosporo, to discuss the journey. In speaking to why he was drawn to The Tempest, Herskovits reflected on the scale:
I was interested in the way that the play is small. I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare where I’ve loved the sweep of it and there is sweep in this play too, but for some reason working in this physically contained way was exciting to me. It’s one of the few plays at the end of Shakespeare’s career that was written particularly for indoor chambers at court, as opposed to outdoor productions in the midday sun. I’m not doing an archaeological production, but that is all inspiration. In a way it’s also a big production for us. It’s more expensive than any other production we’ve done so it feels like a big deal, but artistically there’s something about the frame of it being very intimate that is wonderful for me.
With every production Target Margin reinvents itself. For example, the last Target Margin show I saw was Second Language, a devised piece about the limitations of language performed by Target Margin company members and ESL students at LaGuardia Community College at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City. The creative through line consists of creating a unique language for each piece as Herskovits is interested in “developing multiple artistic impulses at the same time and challenging the actors to create a performance style that is particular to the project and different from past work.” Steve Ratazzi, who has worked with Target Margin for the past twenty years and was in its first production, Titus Andronicus, spoke about the process of creating a performance language for The Tempest, which was something completely new based on something old.
It’s based on ballet and old declamatory styles of theatrical presentation, but it isn’t those things. It’s a quirky thing. David wanted it so that at any moment you could look at it and it would be a beautiful painting/composition, but he didn’t want to choreograph each move. We created our own movement, interesting body positions informed and inspired loosely on paintings and sculpture we saw at the museum. We developed a movement style to interact in this new movement universe without too much self-consciousness.
I found the company’s ongoing reinvention and flexibility reminiscent of some reflections Rattazzi had of Prospero’s journey in the play:
It’s partially thrust upon him the events of his day, both astrologically and the fact that his enemies show up on the shore of this island. The issue of forgiveness is huge. It makes me think of the Rilke poem The Archaic Torso of Apollo, a beautiful poem that it ends with, “You must change your life.” That always stuck with me- the difficulty of forgiveness and the Herculean nature of that gesture to change your life.
The dialectic between the grandiose and intimate of this undertaking struck me as well as the culmination of the passage of time, change, forgiveness, beauty, and how “theater is life writ large,” in the words of Herskovits. As I waited to speak with him, in between tech and the first preview performance, I popped into the theater where crew members were making final tweaks to the intimate magic box set. David Birn, a set designer who specializes in old theaters and theatrical machinery, designed a set modeled after a 17th century theater with lots of visible machinations to create hand-crafted magic in plain sight. Herskovits came in from the rainy day having just picked up coffee for the crew after running an errand for his costume designer, Carol Bailey. We staked out a momentarily quiet, empty dressing room for our conversation, during which TMT company members would pop in and out as their call time approached. There was a wonderfully frenetic energy all around in anticipation of the first public performance. “I’m always conscious of the reality of the theatrical event. The making of the play is always the material of the play.” In this world, the magic is visible, not illusory.
To end the piece and start the week, I leave you with the poem that Rattazzi referenced:
Archaic Torso of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low;
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
Directed by David Herskovits
Set Design: David Birn
Costume Design: Carol Bailey
Lighting Design: Lenore Doxsee
Sound Design: Kate Marvin
Music Supervision: Thomas Cabaniss
Music Direction: David Rosenmeyer
Production Stage Manager: Joseph Fletcher.
Featuring: Clare Barron as Miranda, Purva Bedi as Sebastian, James Tigger! Ferguson as Antonio, Yehuda Hyman as Gonzalo, Mia Katigbak as King Alonso, Meg MacCary as Stephano, Nana Mensah as Ariel, Mary Neufeld as Caliban, Hubert PointDu Jour as Ferdinand, Steven Rattazzi as Prospero, and J.H. Smith III as Trinculo.
Mondays, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. Dark on Tuesdays. Tickets are $20 for performances May 4 8, & $25 for all remaining performances, and may be purchased at www.here.org, or by calling TheaterMania at (212) 3523101.