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Theatre in the woods: BPA and IslandWood premiere Shakespeare outdoors
Literature’s most appealing castaways will be flung ashore Bainbridge Island this August, with the Bainbridge Performing Arts’ rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
The BPA Shakespeare Society will be presenting the play at IslandWood’s Creeky Tree Meadow as their first outdoor Shakespeare production.
“If you’re going to do Shakespeare, you’ve got to do it outside,” said Tom Challinor, the director for the BPA Shakespeare Society.
Since Challinor started the society last year, he has anticipated putting together an outdoor performance.
“The Bard at IslandWood,” is expected to be an ongoing outdoor program for the BPA Shakespeare Society. It will begin Aug. 1 with Shakespeare’s believed to be last play, “The Tempest.”
At 11 years old, “The Tempest” was the first Shakespeare play Challinor ever saw. And it was his first thought when a partnership with IslandWood began to take root.
Set on a mystical island, the natural surroundings of Bainbridge Island bring to life the story of “The Tempest” without the necessity of special lighting, props, effects and sound amplifications.
“We are asking the audience to buy in with us,” Challinor said. “‘The Tempest’ is very much about the nature of theater, the power of imagination and creation.”
Those attending the performance next week, will follow the magician and rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero, as he struggles to find a balance between revenge and forgiveness.
After Prospero is usurped by his evil brother, Antonio, he is set adrift and exiled on a remote island with his then 3-year-old daughter, Miranda.
The two spend 12 years on the island with little to their name but Prospero’s prized books from his personal library, the only property he managed to bring with him.
Over the years, he foments with revenge and masters his studies in the magical arts.
Meanwhile, Miranda grows up with little knowledge of the outside world. All she knows is her island, the fairy-like creatures that inhabit it and the realities told in her books.
All of this comes to a head in the opening of the play when Prospero’s brother Antonio reappears on a passing ship alongside his co-conspirator King Alonso of Naples.
Prospero wastes no time at the chance for revenge. He conjures up the tempest, a storm so angry that the ship crashes on the shores of Prospero’s island.
“(Prospero) is the mover and shaker of everything that happens in the play,” said Joel Underwood, who plays Prospero.
“He’s playing with forces he should not.”
Everyone on the ship is scattered and separated. While a few factions find each other, they believe the rest to be dead.
In “The Tempest,” three plots unfold between Prospero and the island’s new inhabitants as they attempt to get a grip on the circumstances of which they find themselves; one of romance, one of rebellion and one of treason.
“The base desire, the need to take revenge, it’s something you feel inside of you,” Challinor said. “To forgive, it’s like understanding something higher.”
In the end, Prospero gives everyone the chance at forgiveness, but it is he who ultimately needs forgiveness.
Shakespeare’s poetry illustrates the idea of theatre and the inner workings of life with Prospero’s entrapment between the fairy world and the real world.
“There is no other language that is more capable of holding what you feel,” said Jenna May Cass, who plays the role of the airy spirit, Ariel, Prospero’s spy and cohort.
“The text will just hold you up.”
“The Tempest” will open at 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 at IslandWood’s Creeky Tree Meadow.
Audience members should arrive with ample time to make the 15-minute walk from the parking area to the Creeky Tree Meadow before the start of the performance. The production will have no artificial lighting, so the hour and a half performance will begin on time. Likewise, there will be no intermission.
Ushers and signage will be available to guide audience members through IslandWood to the meadow. Overflow parking will be located at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary.
Due to no sound amplifications, it will be a small and intimate show in the woods. There is a limited number of tickets for each performance. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance either online at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, by phone at 206-842-8569 or in person at the BPA box office. Box office hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, students, youth, military and teachers.