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The Feast:
an intimate Tempest

January 18

March 11, 2012

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

co-created and co-directed by
Jessica Thebus and Frank Maugeri
adaptation by Jessica Thebus

Playgoer's Guide

I love when artistic collaborations reveal a play to you in a new and unexpected way. From the first day we began discussions with director Jessica Thebus and Redmoon co-artistic director Frank Maugeri about an adaptation of The Tempest, the process has been dynamic, passionate and illuminating. Melding our two institutions' aesthetics and building upon one another's strengths, we were drawn to some of the core themes of the play. I will never forget first seeing Frank's initial sketches for the physical world of our story—hand-carved puppets, compelling visual imagery and at the center, a large and mysterious table—Prospero's table, at which he alone sits, commanding his captives to tell his story.

Welcome to The Feast: an intimate Tempest.

A great text invites and encourages an artist to discover in it not only surprises for their audience, but surprises for themselves.

As we took the journey of The Tempest over the past several months, we uncovered not only the amazing tale Shakespeare so elegantly crafted, but also the universal themes of vengeance and forgiveness that moved us quite deeply. We were drawn not only to his original story, but one we found lurking in the text. Or one that the story kindled in us. One that spoke to us, and one we hope can speak to each of you, in special and personal ways.

With the uniquely powerful tools of puppetry, spectacle and mechanical devices in our hands, we have worked to match Shakespeare's poetry. We have collided his tale and text with our own new imagining and experience.

What began as a telling of The Tempest became our feast—one of ideas and images and possibilities...and we found that the tale we were unfolding could very well have been called Prospero's Children.

With his axe as a magic staff and his sketches in a magic book, our Prospero has carved a whole world of his own out of wood. He longs to hear the story of his life the way it SHOULD have been, and it unfolds out of this wooden world over which he has complete control. He is not quite alone. He needs his actors to perform the story. Ariel and Caliban, now bound to his command, are his performers and puppeteers.

But no matter how frightening the tempest, how beautiful the wedding, and how violent his revenge on his enemies...it somehow does not satisfy. He begins again, and again, in hopes that once the story is PERFECT, he will have peace.

One final evening, at this dinner table, not unlike the meals we share with our families, where lifetimes occur over wine and memories unravel over food… Prospero, a man mad with vengeance, sets forth to find peace...

A human tale of searching, curiosity, compulsion, and grace. What we hope is not only an intimate spectacle, but a spectacle of emotion. One that encourages us to see, carefully...beyond what we have fabricated, to what is flesh.

Long before the story of The Tempest begins...

Prospero, Duke of Milan, leaves the business of government in the hands of his brother Antonio in order to devote himself to his books. With the help of King Alonso of Naples, Antonio usurps his brother's title, and in the dark of night Prospero and his three-year-old daughter, Miranda, are cast out to sea. A faithful old counselor named Gonzalo supplies the unseaworthy boat with food, water, clothing—and with Prospero's precious books. Father and daughter land on a strange and lonely island. Here Prospero uses his magic art to rule over Ariel, a spirit of the place, and Caliban, son to the witch Sycorax.

Twelve years later, Prospero now turns his magic to revenge. Conjuring up a terrible sea storm, he watches from the shore as the ship is destroyed that carries the same men who years before betrayed him—his brother Antonio with the King of Naples and the king's own power-hungry brother, Sebastian.

With Prospero pulling the strings of fate, all safely reach his island. Searching in vain for his son, the king fears that the prince has drowned at sea. But somewhere on the island Ferdinand is quite safe—as safe as one can be when one has fallen head-over-heels in love, as he does upon first sight of Miranda, precisely according to Prospero's plan. As Sebastian plots to kill his brother Alonso and seize the crown, Caliban teams up with two other shipwrecked passengers—a drunken butler named Stephano and Trinculo, the court jester—in a plot to kill Prospero and seize the island back. Prospero at last settles the score with his enemies, surprising all with the depth of power he discovers.

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