“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #8

By David Rubin

Our week at The University of North Alabama turned out to be our final week of the tour.

We had been due to do one more week but, as with much of the world’s activity in reaction to the Coronavirus issues, our tour had to be cancelled. As I write this I am en route back home to London (along with Noel and William… and Molly and Arthur will be flying back tomorrow). Today is March 15th.

We had been due in Logan, Utah, for our final week, but with the escalating worldwide concerns, we’re all agreed heading home at this point is the best/safest option.

Florence, Alabama, was our last location, then, before bidding farewell to the U S of A, and a wonderful week we had! Our host there, Cynthia Burkhead, was fantastic. She met us at the airport, took us out for a couple of fancy dinners, showered us with gifts, and presided over a really special week’s residency at the University.

Florence is a city in the northwest corner of Alabama. A population of around 40,000, and known as relatively liberal in what is an infamously conservative state. We performed the play three times this week…twice at one of the University theatres and once at The Limestone Correctional Facility, about 60 miles east of Florence. The performance in the jail, to around 30 of the facility’s ‘residents’, plus a dozen or so students from the Uni, was a rare experience. One I will remember always. My final words in the play resonated like never before in front of our literally ‘captive’ audience. An audience so switched on to our work and Shakespeare’s words because of the brilliant ongoing collaboration between the University and the Correctional Facility.

‘As you from crimes would pardoned be
Let your indulgence set me free.’

Final Update, Monday May 18th, 2020

So. I got back to London on the 16th March. One week early. But that week allowed me to spend some time with my father for the last time before he passed away. So I’m very grateful to have got back when I did.

Dad was in a care home, and as of March 21st they went into ‘lockdown’ – no visitors. So on that day my mum and I did spend some time with him. After that our only contact was by phone.

He passed away on April 14th. (Not from COVID-19.) He was 86 years old. We’ve since had an odd socially distanced funeral and I’m now living with my mum. I’ll remember this tour always and it will also always be a reminder of loving memories of my dear old dad. We had lots of WhatsApp chats while I was away I’m pleased to say.

Thanks all for reading and sharing my experiences throughout the tour.

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #7

By David Rubin

I’m going to start this entry in blank verse.
And in rhyming couplets I’ll also this immerse.
In hope that it will inspiration bring,
As I explain this week: ‘The play’s the thing’!

We have returned once more to Illinois.
Decatur this time, and a place enjoyed
By each of us five – off the stage and on.
And at the strange hotel (back of beyond).





Again we’re on a highway, cars a must.
Roadtrips daily for eats and drinks and just
To see more of the place, spend some time
Within contrasting cultures we’re consigned.







But this week I want to write about the play.
Those intriguing worlds behind words we say.
For they are what this work is all about.
‘The play’s the thing’, of that there is no doubt.







Shakespeare’s insights, ideas and images
Make performing his plays a privilege.
His stories told so personally heard,
The heart of his great work lies in his words.

So many ways a thought we can interpret,
And so I muse muchly on that subject.
‘We are such stuff…’ ‘Be collected…’ ‘Mine shall…’
‘I here abjure…’ ‘Ye elves…’ ‘And fare thou well…’.









His words my scattered thoughts will sometime find,
(Like seeds amid the spirals of my mind),
I then exploring how his words have grown
When then I get to say them as my own.

OK, this is taking a bit too long. Back to prose. Chattier, eh?

We did have a fun and fairly sociable week in Decatur. It was particularly good fun hanging out with ‘the staff’ after the last show. Lovely people. The students were fabulous all week, too. Dedicated and talented. We worked almost exclusively with the University Theatre Department students this week and they were inventive, detailed and playful throughout.

Our performance space was a 1900 seat theatre! We had a couple of hundred in for each performance. They all sat at the front of the auditorium close to the stage and it worked well.

We finished our working week on the Friday and then had a couple of days off in St. Louis, Missouri, which was great. Beautiful weather for some touristy outs and abouts, and St. Louis struck me as a very clean and quiet town… very few people about on the streets but plenty busy once into the bars, shops, parks and attractions…

Off to Alabama tomorrow morning. Two weeks to go.

Here are some pics from this last week.

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #6

By David Rubin

I do seem to have two very British traits: 1. I tour with my own UK bought tea bags (Yorkshire Tea), and 2. I am a bit obsessed with the weather. This week saw our biggest weather contrast of all as we left the below freezing temperatures of Burlington, Vermont and arrived in a full on summer in Sacramento, California… temperatures in the high 70s!

This week we stayed again in self catering apartments, our long corridored abode also offering a lovely pool and hot tub. Supermarkets and eateries every few miles along the highway. It was quite the holiday week for us.

Three performances at The Harris Centre and just a couple of workshops to run each, meant plenty of free time for us to enjoy the sunshine and other recreations in the area.

Our exact location was Folsom, Sacramento, best known for Johnny Cash’s song about the penitentiary located there, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. There’s not much more to say about Folsom than that! It’s a series of retail centres connected by five and six lane highways. Very rare to see a pedestrian. I did try a couple of local walks, once along some railtracks and once along the roadside. Inevitably I ended up at a retail park each time.

Cars, cars, cars. They’re a bit like people’s pets here. Drive thru washes and valets, drive thru oil change stations, retail centre after retail centre offering ways for you to spend, spend, spend. Quite a wealthy area it felt like. The streets, retail centres, highways and vehicles all very well appointed. But something too much of a man made bubble, it seemed to me. A vacuum of a place, very town planned and ‘unorganic’ in feel.

Fabulous weather, though. And lovely people. True, some of the participating students were a little too laid back for their own good, finding it too much of a challenge to fully engage in the Shakespeare workshops, then spending most of the play fiddling with their mobile phones. But other students were as high energy engaged as we have seen. And all the staff at Folsom Lake College were enthusiastic and engaging.

I took a trip in to Sacramento on one day and saw the State Assembly Building and the park…but otherwise I mostly hung out mostly at our apartments and the pool. I do enjoy the self catering weeks. Feels a bit more like home, which I’m missing.

The other actors explored much further afield…making it as far as San Francisco, Napa Valley and some of the original sites that started the Gold Rush of the mid nineteenth century.

Next week we’re back in Illinois. Decatur this time, for week six of the tour.

Then it’s on to Alabama for week seven and Utah for the final week.

Catch up again next week!

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #5

By David Rubin

Sunday, February 23rd, Burlington, northwestern Vermont.

I’ve just watched the sun go down over the distant hills and mountains across Lake Champlain, looking towards upstate New York. A serene and memorable evening. Shame I didn’t have my camera/phone on me. I did get other pictures of what is a pretty town, with a relatively long history. The University was founded in 1791. It’s been body-shockingly cold here for most of the week, but quite a joy. Burlington is a small, ‘boutiquey’ town, with a famously progressive-in-nature population of just over 40,000. It is 300 miles north of Manhattan and has a great many visitors and fans, despite the biting cold.

It is most renowned to me as being the place where, against all odds, Bernie Sanders became Mayor in 1981, winning by 10 votes (after a recount). It launched a career that now sees Bernie as a serious prospect for the presidency of the US of A! Locals tell me he succeeded in some wonderful ventures for the community here. All views here my own etc… but my hat’s in the ring for him to go all the way to the White House. He’s one of the good guys, with policies that benefit all. But enough politics. Opinions vary. Wildly.

Not so our audience reactions this week, though. Five full house performances and five standing ovations. The University of Vermont hosted us at The Flynn Centre on Main Street, Burlington. Our first show was performed to an audience entirely of High School and University students, the rest to a wonderfully mixed demographic. Many stayed behind to chat with us after the shows and offered warm, intelligent conversation about the production, Shakespeare and life in Burlington.

We also ran a lot of workshops here this week. Slightly different to other weeks, in that many of the workshops were one on one coaching sessions with acting/theatre students. Really enjoyable. The whole freezing cold week was.

Our host, Andrew Barnaby, an English Literature scholar, was very friendly and helpful, ferrying us between classes on the coldest days in his beat up little motor. He offered up valuable insights into the monologues we were coaching students on, and joined us for beer and pub grub after our concluding performance.

Next stop for us in Sacramento, California. Some warmth again. It’s fabulous how much of America we’re seeing. There is a lot of criss-crossing, though. And our carbon footprint for the tour is not good. We’re doing a lot of flying.

We are still improving the show each week, which is satisfying. The difficult Act V, where the five of us hop between some 15 characters, benefitting from further work on ‘stakes’ and pace this week. And again, further thanks to Arthur, who not only keeps the other character I play alive in more moments now (Antonio, that is, whose relationship with Prospero is one of the central stories), doing so by holding Antonio’s hat in his outstretched arm, but he even manages some ‘acting’ as I speak to the hat, with little twitches of reactions tipping the hat this way and that. It’s brilliant.

It’s a 3.45am departure tomorrow morning so into my cosy hotel bed I climb for an early night now. I hope to welcome you again next week.

Bye for now.

PS: Anyone back in London who’d like to see the production, there are two performances there on April 6th and 7th. 🙂

“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…