“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #4

By David Rubin

And so to our first warm weather week. We’ve headed south from chilly Chicago and landed in 75 degree heat in Houston, Texas, for week three of our ‘Tempest’ tour. Lovely! I’m wearing shorts all week in celebration. (Didn’t last…it got cold and rainy here on Day Two!).

Arriving at Houston.

Meeting lecturers to arrange workshops.

We’re actually located quite a way from Houston city centre (39 miles), and about three and a half miles from the University where we will be teaching and performing (at The Bayou Theatre).

Our self catering accommodation for the week.

Our accommodation this week is slightly different…more of a self catering set up. It includes a kitchen and dining room – each! Homely. It’s located on a highway, or should I say freeway? It’s on a 6 lane road, and we’re surrounded by huge retail complexes. Everyone here seems to drive everywhere. Pedestrians are not much catered for. Good then, that we’ve been provided with two fabulous cars for the week.

I certainly want to visit Houston city centre, and there’s even talk of driving five or so hours through the night, after the show on Saturday, for a visit to New Orleans… I’m VERY keen on that, despite it being almost 800 miles round trip. Always wanted to go there.

Best way to see town!

About town in Houston.

Monday. On our first night here a few of us braved a walk across the freeways and to the lovely, Irish themed “Molly’s Pub” It was great. Darts, beers, food and good company – friendly locals. Workshops at the Uni start tomorrow, though my first one isn’t until Wednesady. Leisurely week this one. Fitting perhaps, as Monday was my birthday.

Tourism time.

Tuesday. I went into town and rode around on one of the easy hire bikes that cities have nowadays. One of the first things I saw was another Molly’s Pub – maybe it’s a chain. [It is, I’ve since discovered]. I also saw a lot of homeless people. 95% dark skinned, of course. A saving grace for them, compared to the huge numbers on the streets of Chicago, is that at least it’s not below freezing down here in Houston. Houston also has a few museums and a small theatre district. The highlight looks to be the NASA museum. So I’ll be heading there at some point. Having been spoilt by the art I saw in Chicago last week, I might skip this week’s Museum of Fine Arts…

Wednesday was a day pottering around my abode, feeling very at home, what with two bedrooms, dining area, desk, bathroom and kitchen all at my disposal. I prepared for two workshops I’m giving on ‘Performance Appraisal and Feedback’, which I’ve since delivered and which went very well indeed. And I caught up on emails and Whatsapp calls to friends, family and lovely Sal.

Today is Thursday. Our three performances here start tonight. There was some great discussion during my workshops yesterday and this morning, about the challenges of working without a director. Some simply could not fathom it. Others were fascinated and wanted to hear how we negotiate ‘choices’ and directorial decisions in a company whose unique selling point is their lack of director.

Students after Performance Appraisal Workshop

Caliban’s attempted rape of Miranda came up for discussion in both my workshops, there being somewhat different opinions within the cast about this. I explained the delicate negotiating process of the rehearsal period, where we are free to make choices as actors and then, hopefully, are open to ‘notes’ from our fellow performers on those choices. I shared that on matters affecting the whole group, we would have a democratic vote to decide on which way to go. Individually there was a greater freedom for each actor to come to their own conclusions, regarding their thinking, in the playing of their part…a freedom to work from our own choices.

It’s very well known within the acting profession that ‘noting’ other actors is not the done thing. It’s a very dangerous world commenting on other actors’ performances, unless you’re the director, and it is a rare thing when it succeeds in acting companies. As a rule, it simply isn’t done. It takes a lot of trust and a letting go of ego.

If it is to work, it helps if the company are close…friends even, which was, I believe the way it was with those first Patrick Stewart led companies of AFTLS.

My very early career was with Chicken Shed Theatre Company, whom I joined at 16. We were just that sort of friendly, tight knit company, in those days, that did openly note each other – and no one was threatened by that as we trusted each other and shared the same goals. This current AFTLS company is getting there… we’re on a journey… we are pretty open to hearing each others’ notes, with the proviso that we can, as I outlined, each take or leave any suggested notes that are to do with our own personal acting choices.

Now it’s Thursday afternoon. Having not performed the show for six days, I’m off to spend a little time with my script. I’ve been thinking about trying a new reading of my line ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep….’ I’m contemplating a sacrilegious breaking up of the line (!), forcing it into a slightly new reading…I’ll see what the others say about it, but the final decision is mine. 🙂

Sal’s val. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day for Friday y’all. Sal was very pleased with her cards from me!







Saturday now. Four of us went to the NASA museum yesterday which was… underwhelming. There were a couple of interesting bits, but for me, it was too crowded and too highly commercialised to enjoy.

The stuff that we and dreams are made on… stardust.

NASA visit.






















































The shows here have been very well received so far, one more to go tonight. Audiences for the first two were around the 100-150 mark. Standing ovation last night!

Onstage straight after last show at Bayou.

Cast and our crew again at Bayou.













Desperate though I am to go, I’ve decided to put New Orleans on hold for now. Twelve hours driving on Sunday, our day off, not the best idea. So we’re going to go to Austin or to Galveston instead, before we fly to Vermont early Monday morning, where it’s currently -14 Celsius, for week four of the tour…

Do catch up again next week! And thanks for reading…

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #3

By David Rubin

A rather cold and snowy week in South Bend, back at the University of Notre Dame – but full of very warm receptions… even at the Social Security office, where some of us had to go, for to be issued our Social Security numbers, that we might continue our work here.

So, then…

Multiple workshops variously delivered, plus three more performances of our company devised ‘Tempest’ – this week on the slightly ‘thrust’ stage of Washington Hall, on campus. Each night’s audience was larger and more enthusiastic than the last’s.

Deb, Jason, Scott, Sidney and Peter were on hand with help throughout the week.

The show itself certainly found more of its… groove, I’d say. It’s rhythmically finding itself. We’re still tinkering on bits. And there’ve been some little lapses of memory or liberties with lines. Molly gets top honours for rescuing one of my moments by summoning herself with “Come hither, Spirit”.- me then legging it, late, to where we usually hither it to, ha ha ha!….ish.

We had some fun filming some Shakespeare educational material, this week at Notre Dame, too.

It’s Sunday evening now, and I’m in a nice Chicago hotel after a two day holiday here, courtesy of our Notre Dame hosts, whom we left on Friday night, straight after the evening’s show.

We’ve all had a great time here in Chicago.

Much imbibement and many hours of music.

Saturday night, Noel and I went to Dick’s Last Resort to watch ‘dueling pianos,’ which also included alternating drummers (the pianists) accompanying said pianos. So Noel and I ended up playing drums for them for most of the night. We then went on to Howl At The Moon to watch another band – along with some of the band from the Dick’s gig. Then Molly and Arthur joined us at the second gig, too, for what was a very jolly night all round. Will reported as much of his night carousing, too.

Yes to Chicago. But like South Bend, it’s cold here, too.

And Chicago, of course, is also… mighty pretty.

Chicago’s Institute of Art contains much to muse. Including loads of really well-known works. I spent a few hours there Saturday afternoon. So many Picassos!

And before that, in the morning, after a walk around downtown, I had reveled, together with hundreds of others, in and around Anish Kapoors’s superb Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, near the Lake shore. An amazing piece bringing vibrant community and joy. Much more time here needed to fully appreciate it, I feel.

But it was a lovely break and a good snapshot of the city for us.

I’ve just watched the Oscars. I can’t help loving the fact that the Academy President – who keeps getting namechecked – is also David Rubin! I hope all my actor friends and directors etc. looked twice or fell out of their seats on hearing me announced to make a speech on the stage! And I’m very pleased that Renee Zellweger got the Best Actress Oscar for Judy. Now I’ve been in an Oscar-winning film! [I had previously been in an Oscar-nominated film… ’Brooms’ by Stomp, in the Best Live Action category, but it didn’t win.] But enough about me…

Actually, no, it’s my blog… so maybe just a little more about me… and yes, possibly something wondrous about the tour and the play, too…

But that’ll all be next week.

For now, please enjoy thousands of words painted for you in a few of my pictures.

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #2

By David Rubin

Ah! Blog #2…which is a little late due to some car trouble in New Jersey.

Long story short : I visited one Mr. Tom Miscia, at his home in New Jersey (not seen him for 33 years – he came over on a Performance Arts exchange visit from Montclair Uni to Middlesex Poly in ’87)…but I got locked out of our hire vehicle as I was about to head back to our hotel on Long Island and I ended up getting back there very, very late.

Next day we ended our week at Molloy College with a flight back to Notre Dame for Week 2 of the tour. We all arrived rather tired.

So. Week 1 saw us present our play before an audience for the first time.

Three performances at The Madison Theatre – having also run a series of workshops for students from Molloy College. There was a Q&A after the first showing, which was very informative. Again, the craving for ‘outside eyes’ was upon us.

We’ve now re-tweaked our opening storm. Less is more. We’re able to speak most of it now instead of the slight shout fest it was when fully accompanied/underscored.

And we’ve improved some of the transitions between characters that we have to make when playing more than one character in a scene.

Molly’s clear and brilliant portrayal of each of her 5 characters brought huge praise from the audience. “She’s like the anchor of the piece.”

A few of the audience said we “moved like dancers through the space” and loved the “physicalisations.”

The play itself went down very well, though the audiences were quite small (about 80-100 in a 500-seater)… and there was a reverence from them that it was good to see broken down as the play went on. There’s a section where the Spirit Goddesses of the island are summoned by Prospero to perform, and we include the audience in this, which proves to be a real breakthrough moment.

My personal thanks to Arthur for now keeping my Antonio alive throughout a scene where I’m also playing Prospero. It looks like one hell of an arm ache to me…he holds my hat in his outstretched arm for a quite unreasonable number of minutes to ‘keep Antonio present’ when I duck out of it to play Prospero. I do duck back into it to speak as Antonio again, eventually.

So we were in the state of New York and therefore made many visits into Manhattan to see friends, plays, sights and pizza parlours. Molloy College itself is situated on Long Island, about 35 miles from the Big Apple.

It brought back many memories for me, being where we were, in Hempstead, Long Island… Some 35 years ago my best friend Mark Nathan and I lived in Manhattan (on East 60th Street under the Queensboro Bridge) during our gap year – and we spent much of our time canvassing towns on Long Island, selling memberships for Greenpeace. We were part of the team that set up the first Greenpeace NYC office in 1984.

And now we’re back at Notre Dame. We’re expecting much bigger audiences here. It’s the Company’s “home.” We’re very well looked after everywhere we go, and with just five of us in the company, we very much enjoy each week’s encounters with the different students and staff.

Tune in next week to see how it’s gone!

PS I miss my girlfriend, Sally…

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #1

By David Rubin

Hello and welcome to this blog. I will be writing a weekly update about our tour of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. We are a company of 5 actors, each playing multiple roles in the production, which is a full text version that we have devised ourselves, with no director.

We are Actors From The London Stage, and the company was founded 45 years ago, Sir Patrick Stewart being one of the two founding members, along with Dr. Homer Swander.

Our tour lasts eight weeks and visits eight different Universities across North America. Our producers are from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, where we have spent the last week preparing for Week One of the tour in New York…

Beginning next week!

I’m David Rubin and I play Prospero – and also his wicked brother Antonio.
William Donaldson plays Alonso, Stephano, Juno and The Master/Captain.
Molly Vevers plays Miranda, Ariel, Adrian, The Boatswain and Ceres.
Arthur Wilson plays Ferdinand, Trinculo and Sebastian.
Noel White plays Caliban, Gonzalo and Iris.

L to R: David Rubin, Noel White, Arthur Wilson, Molly Vevers, William Donaldson.

We are just about ready!

The first public performance is this Thursday, January 30th. In the days leading up to that we will be running workshops at Molloy College, NY. We also have two more dress rehearsals scheduled in before Thursday, so by then we will, we’re sure, be ready…

Our final week of rehearsal, here at Notre Dame, was a good one.

It followed 5 weeks of rehearsals in Brixton, London, during which we wrangled our way through this unique ‘no director’ set up. The process requires much negotiation. I think I speak for all five of us when I say we are pleased with what we have devised and are very much looking forward to a live audience reaction.

Rehearsals in London.

Rehearsals in London continue.

Snacking and chatting.

During this last week we did have the benefit of a few pairs of ‘outside eyes’ seeing our work before it goes public: lecturers and professors from the English and Theatre Departments at Notre Dame.

It has proved very useful. We’ve tightened the ship, and are ready for The Tempest to begin.

Rehearsing at Notre Dame.

So many discoveries already. So many more to come.

It’s an amazing play. The language and themes, the characters, the ideas and the images conjured are all, true to Shakespeare at his best, endlessly fascinating and explorable. And incredibly, the play still has great relevance 410 years after being written.

If you have the chance, do come and see the production for yourself,

Thank you, Notre Dame. We are back here for Week Two of the tour.

Midsummer in December

By Grant Mudge

The December full moon arrives at 12:12am on 12/12, known as the Full Cold Moon. It’s the same date we selected for Lavina Jadhwani’s master class, in anticipation of her production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The class will run from 7-9pm.

It’s known also as the Long Night’s Moon, and both names have roots in First Nation or Native American traditions, occurring as it does on or near the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, this year the 21st. It’s also called the Moon Before Yule, the Oak Moon, and the Bitter Moon.

Naturally, this had me thinking of the Moon in Midsummer. Some of you may know Earth’s satellite plays a special role in my house.

There’s even a hint of direct reference in the play, though Theseus here is speaking more about Chastity than Winter, and contrasting with more Earthly fruitfulness:

“Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
Know of your youth, examine well your blood,
Whether, if you yield not to your father’s choice,
You can endure the livery of a nun,
For aye to be in shady cloister mew’d,
To live a barren sister all your life,
Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon.
Thrice-blessed they that master so their blood,
To undergo such maiden pilgrimage;
But earthlier happy is the rose distill’d,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness. ” I.i

It’s a distillation of the fertile growth of summer living on, perhaps in progeny. Like a flower distilled into perfume outliving the blossom itself.

The cycles of the Moon and the Seasons of course are often tied to fertility rites, marriages, and festivals whether of high summer, deep winter, or harvest. In the very first sentence of Shakespeare’s play, Theseus bemoans the slow approach of a new Moon, whose pace and chastity “lingers his desires.” Hippolyta assures him that the time will quickly pass and that the Moon will arrive in four days, “like to a silver bow/ New-bent in Heaven.” She will “behold the night of our solemnities.” One assumes chaste Diana will occasionally look away.

Moments later in the same scene, Egeus decries Lysander’s singing of feigning verses to Hermia “by moonlight” and of course the Queen of the Fairies herself proclaims the Moon to be “pale in her anger,” who “washes all the air that rheumatic diseases do abound,” among other disastrous climate changes. The speech is a key reason I’ve selected Midsummer for 2020.

The troupe of workmen rehearsing a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s royal marriage need moonlight in their play because, “you know, Pyramus and Thisbe meet by moonlight.” Nick Bottom later greets the actor presenting Moonshine with “Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams.”

Even Cupid’s arrows are “quenched in the chaste beams of the watery Moon,” and after forty-seven other references, it is not Theseus who speaks the final mention of the Moon, as the Dream fades into morning, but Puck:

“Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the Moon.”

I’m intrigued and delighted to see that as we reach the antipodal solstice of our coming 20th Anniversary NDSF Season, the full Moon will usher in some winter cheer on the 12th day of December. Maybe we’ll howl at the Full Cold Moon.

It should be a terrific occasion and I look forward to everyone meeting Lavina Jadhwani.

See you then.