On Steampunk and The Tempest
There are many definitions for it, but the easiest way to describe the aesthetic is that Steampunk is a kind of alternate history, a version of the Victorian and Edwardian eras where technology advanced about a century faster than history recorded. The skies are full of zeppelins and flying contraptions. Everything has a feeling of refinement and luxury made possible through impossible engines built from polished wood and brass, powered by a combination of clockworks and steam. We all love our iPhones and Androids these days, but in Steampunk there is a longing for devices that aren’t simply built to use once and throw away, but instead are polished and repaired and made better with more gadgetry.
As for me, I’ve been a fan of Steampunk from before I knew there was such a word. Back in the ’80s, I would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch episodes of Doctor Who on Georgia Public Broadcasting. When Tom Baker played the Doctor, the interior of his time machine, the TARDIS, had the appearance of a Victorian drawing room, all full of brass and what looked like mahogany.
The lesson there was that it was great to travel through time, but if you could do it in style, then all the better!
So what does this have to do with The Tempest? North Fulton Drama Club has always taken Shakespearean plays are placed them solidly in various eras of history. We’ve done Louisiana in the 1930s, a turn of the century India, a New Wave 1980s and even the Wild West. For a few years now, we’ve kept Steampunk in the back of our collective mind, just waiting for the right play. At some point last year, it just clicked: The Tempest‘s Prospero is a wizard who loved his books, who steers thunder and lightning to further his goals, who seeks to control of often invisible forces just beyond his comprehension.
In that way, Prospero has a lot in common with some real-life wizards from history, like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and (in particular) Nicola Tesla. From there, it was a matter of looking at the character of Ariel like the embodiment of electricity and the deformed Caliban as nature standing (or stooping) resistant to being tamed and ordered.
Like we said in our Kickstarter:
“The last of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Tempest is a wonderful tale of magic both real and imagined, of love as a voyage of discovery, of wild things that cannot be tamed.”
I adore The Tempest. Some of my favorite lines are spread throughout the text, and so many of them will be familiar to the audience even before they settle in for our production.
This production is our most ambitious to date. It’s huge and exciting and a little terrifying, but we can’t wait to get it in front of an audience.