Geneva Shakespeare in the Park presents 'The Tempest'
Magical characters, plots of revenge, comic foils and young love share the stage in Geneva's Shakespeare in the Park production of "The Tempest" on Saturday, July 30, performed by Elgin-based Goodly Creatures Theatre.
The play is set on an island near Italy where Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, live with Ariel, a sprite, and Caliban, Prospero's servant. A powerful magician, Prospero creates a fierce storm, or tempest, that opens the play and forces a royal party, including his brother, Antonio, to wash up on the island. As the story unfolds, Prospero seeks revenge on his brother who usurped his throne, there is a plot to murder the King of Naples, a drunken scheme to kill Prospero and a romance between Miranda and the king's son, Ferdinand. The story takes place in the span of one day.
Billed as a "tragicomedy," "The Tempest" tackles serious topics, such as treachery and revenge, while also providing comic relief, said Katrina Syrris, Goodly Creatures founder and artistic director.
"The play is an exploration of power, betrayal, forgiveness, and wisdom in life experience but also innocence," Syrris said.
Lighter moments of the story include Miranda and Ferdinand's tender romance and comic escapades of bumbling characters. The drunken butler and jester from the shipwreck stumble around merrily singing bawdy songs, providing comic foils to the more serious scenes.
Magic is also a driving force throughout the play, and "The Tempest" is indeed Shakespeare's most magical work, Syrris said. Prospero studied and mastered magic, and he is the only one who can see the sprite characters who inhabit the island. "Though the mortals can't perceive Ariel or the spirits as Prospero can, everyone feels their presence and is affected by them."
"Prospero is a powerful wizard and anti-hero seeking justice for past betrayals," said Steve Delaney, who plays the lead character. "Wonderfully complex and full of contradictions, he is always armed with justifications for his often morally questionable actions. He manipulates people and spirits as if they were pawns on a chessboard yet was happiest as a secluded academic poring over arcane texts."
As Prospero's magic wreaks havoc on the shipwrecked group, Miranda gets her first glimpse of life outside the island.
"It's probably the most shocking day of her life!" said Emma Anderson, who plays Miranda. "I think she's thrilled to see new faces and meet new people. Meeting these people represent a new chapter in her life beyond the island, and I think that scares and exhilarates her."
Miranda's words of surprise and delight, "O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!" are still oft-quoted, Syrris said, "and it's really beautiful because she knows what these people did to her and her father and yet is still amazed and sees them in a divine light."
In fact, the "goodly creatures" quote inspired the name of Syrris' theater company.
"It embodies our mission," she said, "to encourage the beauty of humankind by telling stories of compassion and the perseverance of the human spirit."
Many other recognizable lines from this play have become part of modern-day speech, as well, she noted, in phrases such as "hell is empty and all the devils are here," "we are such stuff as dreams are made on" and "I have been in such a pickle."
This family-friendly performance will draw in all ages with whimsical characters, brilliant costumes and slapstick comedy.
"Spirits will roam the park, and interact with the audience, while our comical drunken duo, Stephano and Trinculo, will get themselves into more mischief than they can manage," Syrris said.
Magic will immerse the characters and the audience, she added, sometimes formidable, sometimes lighthearted and funny, through sleeping spells, mirages and other trickery.
"This year, you won't just be watching events unfold on Prospero's island; you will also be on the island with us," she said. "Our magic will linger long after the play concludes."
Goodly Creatures will also perform "The Tempest" in August at Festival and Wing parks in Elgin and Cantigny Park in Wheaton. For information, visit www.goodlycreatures.com.
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Shakespeare in the Park, "The Tempest," presented by the City of Geneva Cultural Arts Commission
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 30; seating begins at 4 p.m.
Where: Island Park, 2 E. State St., Geneva
Bring: Portable chairs, blankets and picnics.
What else: The play runs for 1 hour, 45 minutes with no intermission. Food vendors are Graham's and Stockholm's selling sandwiches, small-batch root beer, water and soft drinks.
Parking: Available at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave. The park is just a short walk using the covered railroad pedestrian bridge to cross the Fox River. Check the city's parking map at www.geneva.il.us/1119/Downtown-Parking for other free parking options. All parking lots are outside of Island Park, so be sure to arrive early.