In 1916, the visionary poet Percy MacKaye staged a community theatrical event called Caliban by the Yellow Sands at the Lewisohn Stadium at City College’s Harlem campus. Creating a new lyrical work around Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, MacKaye meant to dramatize “the slow education of Mankind through the influences of cooperative art.” The gigantic production—full of historical interludes, music and dancing—united New Yorkers of all classes and backgrounds: well-known professional actors performed alongside 1,500 community members.
We were inspired by the beautiful optimism of MacKaye’s mass-participation pageant, and so The Public is producing a 21st century version of his civic event. From September 6-8, THE TEMPEST—an important part of the inaugural year of PUBLIC WORKS—will play at the Delacorte Theater. (97 years ago, MacKaye asked to perform in Central Park…and was turned down.)
Our director and conceiver Lear deBessonet has created other large-scale theatrical events across the country, most recently a community-cast Don Quixote at the Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia and The Odyssey (also composed by her longtime collaborator Todd Almond) at the Old Globe in San Diego. Her other productions include Marcus Gardley and Todd Almond’s On The Levee at Lincoln Center/LCT3, Brecht’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards and the recent Good Person of Szechwan, which will be remounted at The Public this October. In 2006, she created and ran the TICKETS FOR THE PEOPLE initiative, which distributed over 20,000 tickets to non-traditional theatergoers. She is also the Director of PUBLIC WORKS.
Our composer/lyricist/adapter Todd Almond (who also plays Ariel) wrote the 2011 musical version of The Odyssey, which he and Lear created with over 200 San Diego performers. His other musical credits include the book for Girlfriend, the music for Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play (13P) and the music and lyrics for We Have Always Lived in the Castle (with Adam Bock).
The rest of the creative team includes choreographer Chase Brock (Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark, as well as Lost in the Stars for ENCORES); set-designer Matt Saunders (Good Person of Szechwan); costume designer Paul Carey (The Odyssey); lighting designer Tyler Micoleau (We’re Gonna Die); and sound design team Acme Sound Partners.
THE TEMPEST continues The Public’s tradition of radical invitation. All tickets to THE TEMPEST are free, and they will be distributed, two per person, at noon on the day of the show at the Delacorte Theater. You can also skip the line and try for free tickets via the Virtual Ticketing drawing at www.shakespeareinthepark.org on the day of each performance. (Summer Supporter tickets are also available for a tax-deductible donation of $75 each. For information and to donate, call 212-967-7555.)
This program is made possible with the generous support of the Ford Foundation.