The current vogue of producing Shakespeare has, from my vantage as a theatrical professional, become ridiculous: “Romeo and Juliet” set in an insane asylum. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a high school. “Julius Caeasar” at the DMV. “Take the Bard’s work and set it in an unlikely location” seems to be the major operating prinicipal for classical directors these days. I find these productions disgusting, but not because they are blasphemous. Frankly, I think they do not go far enough. That is why my theater company, The Truth’s Mirror Players, will be staging a production of “The Tempest” on the moon.
The most casual theater-goer will say, “Oh tosh, Piotr, The Royal Shakespeare Company did their moon-bound ‘The Tempest’ just three years ago! And The Classical Stage Company went so far as to stage a reading of it in Buzz Aldrin’s house! Your idea has already been done and done again!” But this casual theater-goer underestimates me. I mean to put my "'Tempest" not on a stage adorned with papier-mache craters, but on the actual moon. And where my will goes, a way always follows, a fact which can be attested to by those who witnessed my underwater “Troilus & Cressida” at the Nyack YMCA, or my “Love’s Labours Lost” performed by a cast of stuntmen while they were on fire.
Last spring, while at a scenic constructivism workshop in Moscow taught by a man who studied with Meyerhold, I was lucky enough to come in contact with a disgraced Russian missile scientist who clued me in to the location of a decommissioned five-stage Soviet rocket. I am at a loss for a way to get my acquisition back to the U.S., so once the rehearsal process is complete, the cast and I will get on a flight to Moscow, and thence by train to the rural facility where the rocket is stored. We will achieve cooperation from the facility’s employees using the very real firearms from our production of “Henry V,” and, assuming a number of factors are in alignment, launch ourselves to the “inconstant moon.”
In keeping with the play’s ship run aground, we will not land on the moon, we will crash. The actors will stumble from the wreckage and take the sun rising over the Sea of Tranquility for their “lights up.” They will perform for as long as the moon-suits from our production of “The Right Stuff: The Musical” maintain structural integrity, and as long as there is air in their decommissioned Soviet oxygen tanks. The show may run for one performance or for thirty, but definitely until we run out of water. All the performers have signed waivers and, having spent their professional lives searching for the real, raw, brutal stuff of theater, are actually quite excited. No wooden-sword play-fighting production can hope to live up to the exhiliration of speaking the Bard of Avon’s verse while rapidly asphyxiating in a merciless vacuum, in which there is no sound anyway.
“But Piotr,” you say, “you have made one grave miscalculation! You have one rocket for the cast, where is the rocket for the audience?” I say, they are already in their seats: in the backyards and on the street corners of this planet, gazing up at my proposed venue. “They will not be able to see!” you say: “To even the scientist in his observatory, your actors will barely be specks on Moon’s face!” This is precisely my intent. For indeed the modern viewer is as far away from the original intent of Elizabethan drama as the Earth is from the moon. (Truth’s Mirror season ticket holders will be provided a fourteen-dollar telescope and a general indication of where to point it.)
It will be my greatest triumph, and, barring any intervention by NASA or benevolent, as-yet-undiscovered moon-people, my last. But if by naked good fortune I do make it back to Earth, I plan to proceed forthwith with my as-yet-unrealized production of Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” set in the left kidney of a Best Buy clerk.