As the Weird Sisters dive into our summer production, it’s encouraging to read that we are not the only ones taking another look at Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Director Julie Taymor will be producing a film adaptation of the play starring Helen Mirren as the the sorcerer Prospera, a role originally penned for a man, as the infamous Prospero.
“I wanted to do it because there are actresses like Helen Mirren who never get to play these fantastic parts because they were not written for women,” Taymor says. “We changed the role. It’s one of the few plays where it not only doesn’t hurt the play, but enhances the play.”
It’s great that Taymor feels that Mirren enhances the play, but we think there are many ways in which the text can be looked at in a new light through cross-casting, particularly when the character is not rewritten to fit the person playing the role. In the upcoming movie, Prospera is the wife of the Duke (rather than the Duke himself) and is accused of witchcraft so her brother can take the throne. The Taymor version takes the Shakespeare tale in an entirely new direction: a mother saving her daughter from a life of oppression; a plot point that is certainly a departure from Shakespeare’s point of view. What if she took on cross casting the Tempest in a different way: imagine if Helen Mirren played Prospero – as a man. How would the patriarch appear when played by a strong woman? Would we see a different side of him? More depth to his character? Or perhaps his shallowness, self centeredness would prevail.
The Weird Sisters will be performing a scene from the Tempest as an introduction to our original work, Sycorax, a prequel to the Tempest. Come see us in June.
Oh And! Hellen Mirren: we cordially invite you to play Prospero the next time we decide to produce the Tempest!