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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Entering a ‘brave new world’ of Shakespeare


    Courtesy of Aquila Theatre

    Actors in ʺThe Tempestʺ from left to right: Calder Shilling, Michael Ring, Lizzy Dive, Kali Hughes and James Lavender. The Aquila Theatre is a touring company based out of New York and will be bringing their productions of ʺThe Tempestʺ and ʺWuthering Heightsʺ to Tucson this weekend.

    A deserted island, the New York theater scene and the Southwest all come together this week as the Aquila Theatre stops in Tucson to perform William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

    UA Presents is bringing Aquila Theatre to the Tucson community as part of its fall theater lineup. The renowned New York-based theater company is on a national tour, performing the classic “The Tempest” and Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” for contemporary audiences.

    “Aquila is one of the most inventive and daring theater companies in the country,” said Itzik Becher, UA Presents director of programming. “They change the perception of classical drama, thus making it accessible and appealing to modern audiences.”

    Founded in London in 1991, the theater company has been bringing accessible adaptations to audiences for the past two decades. Critically-acclaimed worldwide, the company, after moving to New York in 1999, has gone on multiple national tours, performing anywhere from 50 to 70 cities each year.

    Choosing to perform a Shakespearean work always presents the challenge of recreating a story that has stood the test of time since the 17th century. “The Tempest,” a tragicomedy staged on a remote island, tells the story of Prospero the magician and his daughter, Miranda, who have been exiled from Italy after Prospero’s brother deposed him as the Duke of Milan. The play explores ideas of a utopia without the limitations of European aristocracy and religious warfare, its inception coinciding with the journey of many Europeans to the “new world” of America.

    “The Aquila Theatre version brings its own innovative style and dynamic physical approach to Shakespeare’s tale,” Becher said. “It adds a ‘fun’ aspect to the magic of the play.”

    Though contemporary audiences may not view the element of magic in “The Tempest” as taboo, given the exposure to the genre through the “Harry Potter” series, the idea of magic was not so popular in Shakespeare’s day. In Protestant England of the 1600s, the idea of magic was often associated with occult philosophy, which makes his depiction of Prospero’s magic as rational and divine all the more successful for his time.

    But what attracts audiences to a play such as “The Tempest” is not necessarily the bold ideas of its author but the relevance of the play in everyday life. Frederick Kiefer, an English professor, said what Shakespeare provides his audiences is not simple lessons but emotional resonance.

    “The experience of plays is essentially emotional, and the wisdom of the play resides in the power of that emotion,” Kiefer said. “The themes of ‘The Tempest’ include separation, rejection, loss and treachery. These are basic materials of life.”

    To intensify the emotional experience of watching “The Tempest,” the Aquila Theatre is performing in the intimate Pima Community College Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre. After the group’s first performance on Thursday night, Aquila Theatre will be poised for the second and last performance of “The Tempest” on Friday evening.

    Though various groups at the UA put on Shakespeare’s plays each year, this is the first time Aquila Theatre has made an appearance in Tucson. For those who want their Shakespeare nothing less than what The New York Times calls “gleefully engaging,” this is a performance that shouldn’t be missed.

    “Seeing a performance of ‘The Tempest’ is valuable, because the merit of the play does not reside in the plot or the characterization; both are eminently simple,” Kiefer said. “What the play does is give us a feeling of wonderment, something we long for in life but seldom find.”


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