Aisle Seat

Shakespeare is no easy thing for post-Stanislavskian actors. If he's not giving them unmotivated evil — think Othello or The Winter's Tale — there's the problem of characters whose speeches are wildly uncharacteristic; recall Gertrude's poetic description of the death of Ophelia. Caliban is another of the problem characters. He is arguably Shakespeare's most horrific monster, yet he speaks some of Shakespeare's most beautiful poetry. I'm always curious to learn how actors approach the dilemma, so I asked the Caliban in ACT's upcoming production of The Tempest, Graham Beckel, who played the smarmy academic Bernard Nightingale in ACT's Arcadia.

“My friends tell me,” Beckel admits, ” 'You should leave Shakespeare alone; he never did anything to you.' ” But Beckel loves to do Shakespeare: “He has so much respect for the actor.” In the early stages of creating Caliban, working on the contradictions between the physical and the verbal, Beckel sees him as a “homeless guy, disenfranchised on his own island.” And what about the poetry? Beckel asserts that the change in language comes at “his moment of liberation. The language makes visceral sense, given his oppression. The poetry comes from the chance to dream after living in a nightmare.” The Tempest opens the restored Geary Theater. Says Beckel: “I hope we do it justice.” Call 749-2228.

A Winter's Tale
Corey Fischer is a storyteller, and in his latest solo play, Forgiving Waters, which opens Jan. 18 at Project Artaud (621-7797), he has some extraordinary stories to tell. The piece grew out of Fischer's personal tragedies: the death of his mother and his father's worsening Alzheimer's disease. Fischer tells me that “Alzheimer's is a constant lesson in letting go of being right.” The piece is about having a parent die, and about the eerie role reversal that occurs when the child must become the parent.

“Does your father know,” I ask, “that your mother is dead?”
“He knows that a woman he cared about is gone, and he's decided that it must have been his mother who died. Since he only remembers his life up to his 20s,” Fischer explains, “he doesn't know who I am, but he thinks I might be his brother.” The play sounds bleak, but Fischer assures me that it has a lot of humor. “When I'm able to let go and join my father's world, there are moments of real pleasure in the contact I have with him.” Fischer believes “[w]e need to tell and to hear stories. The process of discovering the story makes you live very deeply. You have to value the experience of your life in order to share it with others.”

By Deborah Peifer

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