Shakespeare in Clark Park returns July 24 with “The Tempest”

July 18, 2013

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

      Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Stranded on an island with daughter Miranda for over a decade, Prospero, the overthrown Duke of Milan, ensorcels a wild storm to maroon a passing ship carrying passengers returning from a royal wedding.

It’s a prophetic tempest with a purpose–with the use of illusion, manipulation, and supernatural wildlings, Prospero plans to expose his brother Antonio as abject for supplanting his post, setting in motion the fantastical emprise of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Come Wednesday, July 24, the early 17th century play will be the subject of Shakespeare in Clark Park‘s (SCP) latest production when it returns to  “The Bowl” at Clark Park for its eighth summer season. SCP’s “The Tempest” will be directed by Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony Performing Arts artistic director and adjunct Theatre professor at Drexel University, and designed by veteran SCP thespian Bradley Wrenn (also Mackey’s husband). Performances of “The Tempest,” held for free at 43rd Street and Chester Avenue, will start at 7 p.m. and run through Sunday, July 28.

“‘The Tempest’ is different from anything SCP has tackled before,” said Shakespeare in Clark Park Artistic Director Marla Burkholder. “It is a magical fantasy that falls outside of comedy and tragedy. It felt like a good challenge for the company to move away from the strictly comedic works we have done for the past [five] summers as we move into the realm of the less known pieces from Shakespeare’s cannon.”

Under Mackey’s direction, SCP’s production of “The Tempest” will color itself outside the theater lines. While Prospero’s role is typically cast with a male actor, Mackey has brought in Barrymore Award-winning actress Catharine Slusar to take on the contentious lead, describing the Bryn Mawr theater director as “an incredible power house…able to take on the challenge of a character that is controlling an opaque.” 

“It’s such a tough role…and few people I know could do what Catharine is capable of–creating a person who sees the darkside of that infinite power and shows us a journey of forgiveness over the course of the play ultimately releasing her enemies, if not for herself, for the deep and boundless love she has for her daughter,” Mackey said of Slusar, who she collaborated with on the 2011 Live Arts festival piece, “Lady M” (a probe of another infamous Shakespearean exemplar, Lady MacBeth). “In many ways, Prospero reminds me of my own single parent mother–a woman who also struck out relatively alone in the world with tiny children and out of necessity forged a strength and toughness to make sure they could grow and flourish, even if it was at her own expense.”

Nontraditionally casting is only one way in which “The Tempest” will stand out this season. SCP has also brought in Sean Hoots of fair-haired Americana-roots act, Hoots & Hellmouth, to score the production, performing live during showings. According to Mackey, she, the cast, and Hoots are working to conjure a musical terrene that captures the “dreamy-ness and fantasia of Prospero’s island” and its different effects on each of the characters–like sudden possession by island magic that “can twist and turn the scene in exciting ways.”

“The play is focusing on: the magic, the music and the journey of what a person does when cast into the unknown,” she said. “These moments are like little arias, enrapturing the character and the viewer into a little hallucination or magic moment and then returning just as quickly back to the action of the play.”

But “The Tempest” is more than an opportunity for SCP to step outside its comfort zone. As SCP moves way from the “strictly comedic works” its performed, Burkholder also considers “The Tempest” a “good stepping stone to an epic history” the theatre company will produce next year.

That epic: “Henry IV,” Shakespeare’s second epitaph in his historical tetralogy. Next summer, SCP will produce a “highly interactive production” of the esteemed play in conjunction with local theatre and dance collective, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. SCP will use the $35,000 grant it was awarded as a 2013 winner of the Knights Arts Challenge Philadelphia to support the performance, which will include a 100-person choreographed battle scene featuring community members recruited by SCP.

Show Details:

Shakespeare in Clark Park presents “The Tempest”

Wednesday, July 24 through Sunday, July 28

7 p.m., Free

In “The Bowl” at Clark Park, 43rd Street and Chester Avenue

Annamarya Scaccia

1 Comments For This Post

  1. mds chill Says:

    it’s an _early_ 17th century play.

    …and i’m psyched to see it!

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