Web-interview with Tempest Co-Director, Patti-Anne Ali

Shakespeare in Paradise blog published an interview with one of the directors of October’s The Tempest, and now we are able to bring you an interview with the next. Here’s Patti-Anne Ali’s exciting Q & A:

SiPB: How and why did you become involved in Shakespeare in Paradise?     

Patti-Anne Ali: I met Dr. Bethel years ago in The Bahamas.  Over the years we have kept in touch professionally.  I have followed her work with Ringplay productions and her publications with great admiration.  Last year we met again in New York where I directed a staged reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  She spoke about plans for Shakespeare in Paradise.  I was very intrigued.  I had just developed a series of directorial techniques based on Carnival’s rituals and rhythms.  I had used them on the last two productions I directed in New York with all American casts.  I was really looking forward to working with a Caribbean cast using these techniques, as essentially – this is the region that gave birth to these ideas.

SiPB: How did you come to be co-director of The Tempest?

PA: Dr. Bethel invited me to co-direct with the amazingly talented Craig Pinder.  I was both humbled and inspired.  It’s an incredible opportunity.

SiPB: How is the theatre scene in Trinidad different from that of The Bahamas?

PA: Culturally, both The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago are incredibly rich.  Theatrically, I think all Caribbean nations are still struggling to some degree with ‘lack of’: adequate funding, proper training facilities, national recognition, fully equipped theatres and accessible theatrical spaces.  Yet, in the midst of the struggle, true art will not be denied – once there are people courageous enough to forge ahead.

Given our different cultural histories, it would seem that we have both emerged with a different ‘lay of the cultural landscape’.  I am more familiar with the Trinidadian landscape, but as I continue on this journey, I intend to embrace even more and more of Bahamian art, culture and theatre.

In Trinidad, I think the ritual of Carnival is at the heart of all art.  Essentially, we hit the streets each year with a frenzied, outpouring of organic street theatre.  And at the exact same time, there is the very deliberate crafting and creating of costumes, of the calypso, of the steel band.  It is a fascinating paradox of order and chaos.  Out of this melee has emerged a variety of theatrical genres – sex farces, musicals, original Caribbean scripts, religious productions, comedy festivals, secondary schools drama festivals and cultural presentations.  The Divali Nagar, the Best Village and the Tobago Heritage Festival are three invaluable theatrical entities that house and nurture our Indian and African cultures.

I had the privilege of witnessing Junkanoo on more than one occasion here in the Bahamas.  I was so impressed with the orderliness of the festival – from the intricate crafting of the costumes, to the specific rhythms of the drums and cow bells, to the actual parade itself – there was such a purity to the expression – a depth, a formality, an awareness of something pristine and ancient.  I was deeply in awe.  This differs from my wild and wonderful bacchanalian Carnival – but I find the difference intriguing – I wonder what it would be like to swirl these energies together, to have them meet and dance and play with each other…say in a boat, out to sea with a Bard…

SiPB: When are you set to begin work on The Tempest?

PA: I began working on The Tempest when I received the dramaturged script months ago.  I have a process I go through as a Director that starts off with a large black book.  It becomes my Production Bible.  In it I sketch, journal, do research, make notes and immerse myself as much as possible.  I also try to watch, read and listen to as many previous productions, interpretations, artistic impressions, musical renditions of the work in an effort to just know it as completely as possible.  So in my bedroom, illustrated children’s Shakespeare books are rubbing shoulders with critical essays on The Tempest – I like the extremes.  It strengthens the exploration.  When I get to The Bahamas in late August, it will be the next leg of the journey.

SiPB:  Do you anticipate any challenges in directing The Tempest, in particular?

PA: Every production has its own challenges.  With regards to Shakespeare, there is always the challenge of the language and ensuring that any member of the audience can understand and follow the story – whether you are familiar with the Bard or not.  I deal with this challenge by another technique I call ‘it’s all about the story.’  Basically this exercise helps the actors remember, that whatever language the lines may be in, their responsibility, is to tell the story.  This particular production of The Tempest has been dramaturged in a very interesting way – making it contemporary, but not interfering with the language… can’t say anymore, you’ve got to come see for yourself!

Patti-Anne also added:

I think Shakespeare in Paradise is a groundbreaking idea which will continue to live on and enrich not just The Bahamas, but the Caribbean and beyond.  It’s an incredible opportunity to challenge ourselves to reach a collective greater potential.  I am deeply grateful to be working with the amazingly talented and accomplished Craig Pinder.  Dr. Bethel, Phillip Burrows, members of Ringplay productions and all involved must be congratulated on having the immense courage and inspired vision to initiate a creative evolution.

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