Whether it be Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, the plays of William Shakespeare always captivate audiences with their dramatic plotlines and dynamic characters. The themes in these plays transcend centuries’ worth of time, dealing with things like familial conflicts, romance, grief and the resilience of the human spirit. Even now, hundreds of years after he died, the world is still reading, producing and attending Shakespeare’s plays.
Rider University will present one of Shakespeare’s most well-known dramas, The Tempest, this week. Directed by Christopher Parks, it runs from April 26-30 in the Yvonne Theater. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and non-Rider students. Preview performance tickets, which are sold at the door, are $9 for adults and non-Rider students and $5 for seniors.
The Tempest is widely believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote before his death in 1616. It centers around a man named Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, as they are stranded on an island with another man named Caliban. The play is profoundly interesting from start to finish, filled with magic, the divine, adventure and romance. Audience members will surely be on the edges of their seats while watching this story unfold.
Director Christopher Parks leads the Experimental Theater Company, pioneering with some associates a more audience-involved style of theater. According to the company’s website, “student and family audiences typically come to the theater expecting to see a play, but what they find out very quickly is that they are there to be in a play.” These audience members participate in the play, acting, singing and dancing alongside the professional actors. This creates a more involved experience with the theater, and helps audiences gain a greater appreciation for what goes into plays.
Parks has a wide breadth of theater experience. He co-directed Bear State of Mind in Fayetteville, Ark., with Kassie Missiewicz in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He also created a new adaptation of the world-famous Wizard of Oz, entitled Journey to Oz, where it was created for the Florida Repertory Theater to run from 2014-2015. He is also currently directing Dream Within a Dream: The Spirit of Poe, for which he put together the book and lyrics, again at the Florida Repertory Theater this year.
“The storm for which Shakespeare’s last full play is named is one of anger and frustration,” he says. “It is one of rejection and exile. A woman wronged who is granted the perfect opportunity to exact revenge on those who betrayed her. The inventiveness with which Shakespeare created a world of magic and mystery is the approach we endeavored to continue as we built a world from ropes, stage cubes, sticks, and fabric. As we enter the mind of our protagonist, we invite the audience to come with us for an intimate psychological exploration of the meaning of compassion."
Reflecting on his experience as a guest director, Parks says, “I appreciate so very much the collaborative environment the staff here at Rider encourages in their students and the opportunity I’ve had to create and build this production with them.”