In the Ontario Province area there is a college town named Salterton. The community theater is preparing their summer show for the year. Mrs. Forrester is a driving force for the group. She has determined that this year they should put on Shakespeare's Tempest as a pastoral. It must be in the Webster's upper garden. The Websters are fairly wealthy and have lovely lawns that Mr. Webster hates to see trampled but he knows that he must allow something there each year for community spirit. His older daughter, Griselda, will "probably" (wink, wink) be cast as Ariel, the lead. His younger daughter, Freddy, will be one of the sprites.
Community theater is city politics at its best (worst). The math professor desires a large part. He has never wanted to act before but has kept their books for many years, so they really should give it to him. The English professor and his daughter are very active in the theater group, so of course they each have to have a part. A young army man is perfect for a romantic lead, so they take him despite his opinions. Then there is the Torso - she has to play the beautiful friend in the play. And on and on...
There is the sound and lights man to mollify, the elderly woman who can barely see but has been putting on makeup more years than anyone can remember, the costume designer's odd designs, and of course their patron. A professional actor/director has returned to Salterton to dispose of her uncle's estate and is now the director for the Tempest. She has her hands full.
Robertson Davies has filled Tempest-Tost with characters we all know. There's the know-it-all young teen girl, the quiet long-suffering father, the lecherous military man, a local young man tied to his mother's apron strings, the knowledgeable young woman who is still quite innocent, and the overbearing woman who chooses herself as the man ager of the group each year. This isn't an action book, but a people book. We follow them through the summer, including all three men in love with Griselda for different reasons.
Tempest-Tost, published in the early 1950's, is a gentle, fun book in the style of the Mitford series. Look under the gloss and you'll find an insightful, funny story about people. Then compare them to groups you know. You'll see that Davies knew just what he was talking about.
Davies also recognized book collecctors. Check my blog for a wonderful quote.
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations
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