Theater

Shakespeare In the Park

The Tempest for Children in Bayfront Park

The Downtown Neighbors Alliance (DNA), in collaboration with the Downtown Arts + Science Salon (DASS), and Bayside Marketplace’s sponsorship, presents Shakespeare in Bayfront Park, with the sensational staging of The Tempest.

Arguably the last play Shakespeare wrote, The Tempest takes place on a ship during a storm, and then on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, a complex and contradictory character, lives with his daughter Miranda, and his two servants — Caliban, a savage monster figure, and Ariel, an airy spirit. The play explores many themes including magic, betrayal, revenge, and family.

“We opted for this premier edition of Shakespeare in Bayfront Park for a local company, Shakespeare & Friends, which specializes in adapting classic plays for school-age children,” said Matilda Kalaveshi, DNA Vice President. “For The Tempest, they have put together a cast of professional actors, providing a show full of adventure and fun that allows children to experience firsthand the joy and wonder of the spoken word. And by children, I mean people of all ages.”

Downtown NEWS reached out to Heli Berti, Shakespeare & Friends producer.

Downtown NEWS: Theater can be a great educational tool. Do you see it that way?

Heli Berti: The plays Shakespeare & Friends produce are an ideal component of STEAM education. With The Tempest, early elementary students will explore the weather and the power of wind. Older elementary students will collaborate on solutions to move a group of stranded people from an island that is hundreds of miles from the mainland using math and science, instead of magic. Shakespeare & Friends is a cultural program that aims to encourage reading in children from an early age, so they can assess, use and recognize the importance of their language.
 
 DN:
Why Shakespeare? 
 HB
: Shakespeare’s influence is profound. His plays, poems, and sonnets have influenced almost all the writers of the world for several centuries.

DN: Can you elaborate a bit on your version of The Tempest?

HB: The Tempest tells the story of Duke Prospero, who, interested in magic, neglects his responsibilities of the court. His brother, Antonio, takes advantage of this situation and banishes Prospero (along with his daughter, Miranda), taking over control of the dukedom. Prospero and Miranda are stranded on an enchanted island. While there, Prospero encounters the other magical beings who inhabit the island and continues to practice his powers. Years later, thanks to those powers, he is able to create a great storm (“the tempest” of the title), and those responsible for his exile are shipwrecked and arrive on the island. These events eventually lead to a reconciliation and the return of Prospero to his country. The Tempest is a magical story where fantastical beings play an essential role in the resolution of human conflicts.

DN: It sounds very current, we can easily associate this centuries-old play to events happening around our world today… But would it resonate with children?
 
 HB: For our version, the character of Prospero is played by a female actress, who will be regarded as Prospera. She and the other magical characters add a layer of humor which is key to connecting children to this classic. The fantastic characters present in the original text have been a fundamental element in the selection of this piece as it appeals to children’s imagination. The simplicity of Shakespeare’s plotline also makes it more accessible to children. Yet, the original message of brotherhood and justice have not been compromised.

DN: Can you talk about the structure and the choreography?

Photo Courtesy of Shakespeare & Friends.

HB: The five-act structure of the Elizabethan Theater has been maintained and the presence of Prospera as guide and narrator of the story has also been maintained in order to strengthen his bond with the spectators. Regarding the choreography, one interesting component is that we have created a big fabric, which becomes the sea, the island, the caves, and this fabric is made completely out of recycled materials. What a great lesson to children, that beautiful things can be made out of things that we discard, out of garbage.

DN: What about the Tina Hills Pavilion as the stage?

HB: It’s the perfect stage, with beautiful Biscayne Bay for a backdrop.

“Come and join us,” said Matilda Kalaveshi. “It’s a family affair, a neighborhood thing, and it’s free.”

To get into a Shakespearean spirit, here is a celebration of diversity from The Tempest:

“O, wonder!
 How many goodly creatures are there here!
 How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
 That has such people in’t!”

The Tempest at Bayfront Park, Saturday, March 30, 6 PM. Downtown, Miami. For more information, miamidna.org

Islara Souto is Downtown NEWS Culturist.

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