Re-imagining Florida in the Age of Discovery with Shakespeare
Sometimes art imitates life – or history. ‘Romeo & Juliet – La Tormenta’ explores the Florida of the 16th century re-imagining the world that Shakespeare and other artists heard about from returning travelers.
Explorers and hapless sailors shipwrecked on the shores of ‘La Florida’ in the presence of people they could not comprehend. Others accepted missions to live in a foreign land sharing their faith despite great dangers while monarchies dispatched mercenaries to enslave those they could for mining treasure.
Dr. Paul George, Florida historian and professor, explains “…the two Native groups, Tequestas, who lived throughout southeast Florida, and the Calusa, who exercised a degree of command over the former and lived in southwest Florida, established a noticeable presence, primarily as wreckers and salvagers in the Florida Keys. The Calusa exercised a kind of jurisdiction over all other tribal peoples in a broad sweep across the southern portions of the Florida peninsula. These groups entered the Western historical psyche after Juan Ponce de Leon’s first voyage to La Florida in the spring of 1513. Decades later, in 1565, the Spanish gained control of La Florida under the leadership of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a Spanish admiral, who quickly established religious missions among the Tequestas, so named by Ponce de Leon, and the Calusas. Missions represented for Menendez and the Spanish one of the three major objectives in taking control of La Florida; the others being control of the Florida Straits and mining gold, as they had earlier succeeded at in Central and South America, enabling that young Iberian nation to claim its place as the world’s wealthiest country.”
Menendez would sacrifice his family and faith while becoming the first Governor of La Florida. He lost his son at sea, took a second wife of a Calusa chief to seal a political treaty (when already married to his first wife in Spain), and slaughtered French Protestant pilgrims to claim land for Spain. Competition between Spain and England produced the only free black colony near Saint Augustine creating a La Florida rich in diversity at the dawn of a democratic nation. Cuba became a haven for many of the ‘first peoples’ pushed into the South Americas as the colonial battles erupted into the American Revolution.
Playwright Ean Miles Kessler blended the two plots of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘The Tempest’ into a seamless story-line infused with history. Our ‘queen’ of the island, Prospera, establishes her ‘kingdom’ in the New World and seeks to secure her legacy with her daughter Miranda (our Juliet) and a planned marriage to a tribal prince. The gale ‘La Tormenta’ brings a different love interest, Romeo, frustrating Prospera’s plans. The Friar attempts to help, but his prescription for peace and prosperity fails due to the unrelenting rage of Tybalt and calculating MaCaliban.
The image of Karl Momen’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ serves as the stage backdrop and is part of a series of paintings by the prolific master painter included in a published book about the enduring impact of Shakespeare on the arts including acclaimed musicians and composers, like Richard Wagner (“Homage to William Shakespeare, Richard Wagner” 1998 with introductions by Erland Josephson and James A. Mason). Artist, Ruben Ubiera, paints a tableau of tumultuous times of the Age of Discovery in the Americas as stories unfold on stage.
Special thanks to Dr. Paul George, Dr. Robert Carr, Karl Momen, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Benjamin Family Foundation, History Miami, the late Pedro Pablo Pena, Executive Director, Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center, Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Muse Arts Fort Lauderdale, props specialist, Jessie Melero, A.N.E.W Museum, Mark Diamond, and Armando Colls.
Order of Act I
Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez – Prologue Dance to Spanish Guitar
Scene 1 - Romeo Drowns...
Scene 2 - MaCaliban Finds Romeo...
Toque de Ochosi – Christie Sciturro, Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez, Dayron Parra, Diana Figueroa, Jennifer Villalon Perez, Nataneal Leal
Scene 3 - Tybalt is Enraged...
Scene 4 - MaCaliban's Plan...
Scene 5 - Romeo meets his ‘Juliet’ in Miranda...
Toque Para Oya - Christie Sciturro, Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez, Dayron Parra, Diana Figueroa, Jennifer Villalon Perez, Nataneal Leal
Scene 6 – Tropical ‘Balcony’ in the Trees …
Spanish Guitar music with Christie Sciturro and Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez
Scene 7 – The Hidden Wedding…
Scene 8 – MaCaliban and Tybalt die…
Redoble de Tambor ensemble – Nataneal Leal, Dayron Parra and Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez
Toque Daluaa - Dayron Parra and Christie Sciturro
Redoble de Tambor solo - Jennifer Villalon Perez
Chasity Hart – Prospera
Janice Gisele Muller – Miranda
Jose Vazquez – Romeo
Pablo De Pablo – MaCaliban
Marcial Regidor – Friar
David Myers – Tybalt
Choreographers – Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez with Christie Sciturro
Musician - Alberto Puerto - Classical Spanish Guitarist
Produced/Directed/adapted by Clare Vickery with Ean Miles Kessler (Playwright) and Peter Wayne Galman (Shakespeare Troupe of South Florida)
We had a short conversation with the cast and view the finished artwork up close with Painter, Ruben Ubiera.