New York's Public Theater is launching a major new initiative called Public Works that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators in theater. Its first project will be an original musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest Sept. 6–8 at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Conceived and directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet, The Tempest will showcase 200 New Yorkers from all five boroughs who will share the stage with professional actors and community partners for this three-night civic event. It will feature original music composed by Todd Almond.
The five community partner organizations of Public Works for the first two years are Children's Aid Society (Manhattan), DreamYard (Bronx), Fortune Society (Queens), Brownsville Recreation Center (Brooklyn), and Domestic Workers United (all boroughs, including Staten Island). These six community partner organizations will take part in the full range of Public Theater programming, including Emerging Writers Group, Under the Radar, the Shakespeare Initiative, Shakespeare in the Park, Public Forum, and the Mobile Shakespeare Unit. Projects created by these community partners will be seen on all of The Public's stages, from Joe's Pub to the Delacorte Theater.
Working with these community partner organizations in all five boroughs, Public Works will invite members of diverse communities to participate in theater workshops, attend classes, attend productions, and become involved in the daily life of The Public. Under the leadership of Public Works Director deBessonet, Public Works will deliberately blur the line between professional artists and community members: it will create theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people as well.
In 1916, a community theatrical event titled Caliban by the Yellow Sands,with Shakespeare's The Tempest as the inspiration, took place at the stadium at City College in New York. The intent was to unite New Yorkers of all classes and all beliefs; the production featured some of the best-known professional actors of the day alongside 1,500 community members who participated in a series of pageant and dance interludes.
Inspired by this extraordinary community event, The Public Theater will produce The Tempest as a 21st century version of this event. DeBessonet has created large-scale theatrical events across the country to great acclaim, most recently Don Quixote in Philadelphia and The Odyssey in San Diego.
To form the community ensemble, The Public will hold open auditions with the five primary community partners at each group's space. In the five weeks leading up to the show, this ensemble will rehearse three times a week. On the week of the show, rehearsals will be every day. The Tempest will also feature cameo performances from five community art groups that have strong artistic and cultural traditions.
To view a video of this project, click here.
June 26, 2013