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The Tempest Presented by Classical Theatre Company, at Obsidian Art Space, Houston, Texas. April 12–29, 2012. Directed by John Johnston. Set by Jodi Bobrovsky. Costumes by Troy Scheid. Lighting by Frank Vela. Sound by Tim Thomson. Choreography by Rebecca French. With Zach Bruton (Sebastian, Boatswain), Kregg Dailey (Caliban), Ted Doolittle (Alonso), Dylan Godwin (Gonzalo, Stephano), Jacqui Grady (Miranda, Trinculo), Xzavien Hollins (Antonio), Matthew Keenan (Ferdinand), Blair Knowles (Ariel), and Philip Lehl (Prospero).
Richard III Presented by Main Street Theater and Prague Shakespeare Festival at Chelsea Market, Houston, Texas. April 21–May 13, 2012. Directed by Guy Roberts. Set by Ryan McGettigan. Costumes by Margaret Crowley. Lighting by Carrie Cavins. Props by Tina Montgomery. Sound by Chris Bakos. Fights by Brian Brynes. With Bob Boudreaux (Stanley, Norfolk), Rutherford Cravens (Hastings, Second Murderer), Sarah Cravens (Prince Edward, Young George Stanley), Jared Doreck (First Murderer, Richmond), Shannon Emerick (Queen Elizabeth), Jonathan Gonzalez (Archbishop), Philip Hays (Lord Grey, Catesby), Jovan Jackson (Lord Rivers, Tyrrel), Sean Patrick Judge (Clarence, Ratcliffe), Elissa Levitt (Duchess of York, Jane Shore), Crystal O’Brien (Lady Anne), Guy Roberts (Richard), Ben Russell (Duke of York), Catherine Tharp (Princess Elizabeth), Rebecca Greene Udden (Queen Margaret), David Wald (Buckingham, Brackenbury), and Steve Zinkgraf (King Edward IV, Earl of Oxford).
Romeo and Juliet Presented by Houston Ballet at Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, Houston, Texas. June 7–17, 2012. Choreography by Ben Stevenson. Staged by Li Anlin and Timothy O’Keefe. Fights by Gregg Garrett. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Designed by David Walker. Lights by Tony Tucci. With Sara Webb (Juliet), Joseph Walsh (Romeo), Connor Walsh (Mercutio), Oliver Halkowich (Benvolio), Simon Ball (Tybalt), Ian Casady (Paris), Kelly Myernick, Melissa Hough, and Aria Alekzander (Three Harlots), Damian Schwiethale (Lord Capulet), Mireille Hassenboehler (Lady Capulet), Linnar Looris (Lord Montague), Samantha Lynch (Lady Montague), Jessica Collado (Nurse), Richard Hubscher (Friar Laurence), James Gotesky (Duke of Verona), Lauren Strongin (Rosaline), and others.

Three recent productions in Houston demonstrated three distinct approaches to adapting Shakespearean texts for performance. Classical Theatre Company’s The Tempest retained nearly all of the text, in tandem [End Page 604] with an inventive design. Main Street Theater and the Prague Shakespeare Festival heavily cut and rearranged the lengthy Richard III so that it ran less than three hours, interspersed with multi-media devices such as texts and video footage. Houston Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet dispensed with the text altogether, conveying the story through Ben Stevenson’s choreography and Sergei Prokofiev’s music.

Classical Theatre Company’s mission is to “boldly re-envision classical drama,” and the opening image of their Tempest provided a strikingly original vision for the play. The set was constructed entirely of trash: strings of plastic bottles hung upstage left for curtains, plastic netting covered the floor, and a central arch was composed of plastic chairs, toys, and household implements under bubble wrap. The overall effect was that Prospero had created his “cell” out of garbage that had washed up on the beach. Director John Johnston noted in the program that his inspiration for the design was the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which he described as “both repulsive and in some aspects beautiful . . . a place created by human egocentricity, but . . . [which] constantly contradicts itself.” The set was likewise ingenious, colorful, vibrant, a mark of Prospero’s desperation and self-absorption. Many costumes also incorporated trash and scavenged items: Miranda’s dress was patched with different bits of cloth and she wore incongruous men’s boots; Caliban’s shirt included bits of plastic and a cracked CD; Prospero had draped many layers (including a frayed bath towel) around himself, and brandished a staff held together with duct tape and crowned with a halo of plastic Easter eggs.

The trash-filled set characterized the island as a place that had been intensely constructed by Prospero, and which was both remote from, and a continual reminder of, the outside world. When telling Miranda about his brother’s betrayal, he brought out little dolls crafted from scraps that he used to illustrate his story. Prospero later manipulated these voodoo-like dolls to confine and torture the lords, and Ariel sympathetically cradled the Gonzalo doll when convincing Prospero to...


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