Warm up the teapots, The Tempest is en route. (C’mon, you know Billy S. would appreciate a groaner joke.)
More notable, though, than just the three-zillionth production of William Shakespeare’s late-career romantic tragicomedy is the fact that The Smith Center has leapt from host of Broadway tours to partner in presenting a brand-new show.
As reported by The Boston Globe last spring but made official on December 16 by The Smith Center, our performing arts center will pair with Harvard University’s prestigious American Repertory Theater to create a new version of The Tempest—which will include magic devised by Teller of Penn and Teller.
Making its world premiere in Las Vegas, The Tempest will be performed in Symphony Park in a 500-seat tent from April 5-13, after which it will transfer to A.R.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then possibly embark on a tour. Ultimately, a Broadway run could be in the offing if the creative and financial stars align.
“You know how enthused we got launching a national tour with Kinky Boots [next September]; that was an important step,” says Smith Center President Myron Martin. “Now to have a world premiere of a new work at The Smith Center sends a great message to the world about the integrity of this institution.”
Previous media reports called it a “co-production” with A.R.T. but Paul Beard, the center’s vice president and chief operating officer, offers a clarification: “A.R.T. is the producer and we are the presenter,” he says. “They’re the seasoned producers and they have more responsibility on the production side. We have all the responsibility on the presenting side. We have financial involvement in production parts of it, marketing expenses and stage labor and other aspects.”
Estimated by scholars to have been written in 1610 and believed to be the final play Shakespeare wrote alone, The Tempest tells the story of exiled wizard Prospero, his daughter, a storm (the titular “Tempest”) and shipwrecked aristocrats. In this new version, magic tricks developed by Teller will be complemented by a Tom Waits score and “movement” by Matt Kent of avant-garde dance company Pilobolus. Portraying Prospero will be Broadway veteran Patrick Page, whose credits include playing the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, and Scar in The Lion King.
“We like to be nurturing of top talent,” Beard says, recalling how Teller and his friend, director Aaron Posner, pitched the idea nearly two years ago after Teller discovered renderings of a tent that a magician in the 1930s used for illusions.
“He had an artistic concept that was absolutely on fire in his brain,” Beard remembers. “He had this vision of The Tempest with magic at the highest level, his level, and integral to the theatrical experience. The more he described it, the more captivating it became, and we thought, yes, we want to encourage this.”
Given A.R.T.’s past association with Posner, the repertory company was drawn into the project and it began to take shape. “The reason the world premiere will happen in Las Vegas is because of Teller. He wanted it to start here,” Martin says.
“We’re fortunate in Las Vegas that we have the Utah Shakespeare Festival and a lot of people make the trek there to see performances, so there’s a base of Shakespeare-philes here. But this production won’t require an advance study of Shakespeare. Between the dance of Pilobolus and the music of Tom Waits and the magic of Teller, it will be very engaging.”
The Tempest will be performed April 5-13 at Symphony Park. Tickets are $35 to $65 and will go on sale January 10. Call 749-2000 or visit TheSmithCenter.com.