7 November 2017 / Events
Masks of Whiteness: Costume, Race and Power in The Tempest on Stage
Presented by Dr Bridget Escolme
Reading The Tempest as a colonial text has long been a familiar critical practice and since Canada Lee first played Caliban on Broadway in 1945 and the first of Jonathan Miller’s colonially-inflected productions opened in London in 1970, European, American and South African productions of this play have made frequent visual reference to Caliban and Ariel as colonized people of colour under the rule of a white Prospero. This lecture explores the meanings created by costume in The Tempest. Bridget Escolme first considers what the costumes worn by Caliban and Ariel in the first, seventeenth century productions of the play might have looked like. She then brings these speculative early modern stage clothes into dialogue with modern design. How might the ways in which early modern actors appeared to their audiences help us to think about race and power in the play on stage today? Escolme considers the costumes worn by actors of colour in recent Tempest productions, and explores uses of white fabric in productions of the play, drawing on both archival material and her own experience of spectatorship.
Bridget Escolme is Reader in Drama in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University, where she researches and writes on Shakespeare in performance, the history of emotions, and costume in the theatre. Material from this talk will appear in her forthcoming book Shakespeare and Costume in Practice to be published by Palgrave.