Anti-violence school tour continues with ‘Tempest’

Left to right, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Crystal Eisele, Scott Leslie and Caroline Barry perform a scene from “The Tempest.” Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado.

By Clay Evans

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s highly praised school anti-violence tour continues in spring 2013 with a new program based on “The Tempest” that focuses on themes vengeance and forgiveness.

Created in conjunction with the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder, CSF’s “Twelfth Night” anti-bullying tour has now been seen by more than 22,000 Colorado schoolchildren. That inaugural program examined the problem of bullying through the character Malvolio.

The new program explores the character of Prospero, who conjures a mighty tempest to shipwreck his enemies of old on his remote island domain. But even as he plots his revenge on those who wronged him years before, he ponders his actions and at the last moment turns to forgiveness instead.

“The rarer action is in virtue rather than vengeance,” Prospero says, renouncing all his schemes for payback.

“This is really about how to relate to other people and deal with conflict in your life. This performance and the workshops that follow focus on the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness as a tool for ending the cycle of violence,” says CSF Literary Manager Amanda Giguere, who co-created the program with Timothy Orr, interim producing artistic director.

During the program, four professional actors perform an abbreviated version of the play. The actors then lead the students in small-group exercises exploring alternatives to violence and based on the latest research from the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

The play emphasizes that there is always a choice between continuing the “cycles of revenge” and choosing not to retaliate, says Beverly Kingston, director of the center. She notes that 33 percent of American high-school students had been in at least one physical fight in the preceding 12 months, according to the 2011 federal youth risk behavior survey.

“You can see that in every one of those fights, someone had to make a decision to retaliate for some reason,” Kingston says. “Violence really begins with a decision and we all have a choice how we respond to difficult circumstances in our lives. That’s the message of this play.”

The new play makes use of Japanese bunraku-style puppets — to represent some characters, including Prospero and his spirit servant Ariel.

In actor and stage manager Caroline Barry’s hands and animated by her voice, Ariel’s sea-blue face and colorful trailing veils seem almost to swim across the stage. With a few simple gestures — a thoughtful nod; touching foreheads with his spirit companion — the puppet Prospero becomes a fully-fledged character.

“We really want you to start imagining the actors’ expressions on the puppets,” says actor Crystal Eisele.

The new program debuted Feb. 12 at the Cole Arts and Sciences Academy in Denver. There are more than 40 schools on the spring schedule — and for the first time, a senior center — and Giguere expects to add more.

CSF’s innovative anti-violence school programs have received tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding and been featured prominently in print, online and television media across Colorado.

CSF’s Shakespeare and Violence Prevention: “The Tempest” is available for booking. For more information email csfedout@colorado.edu or call 303-492-1973. Or visit CSF’s website.

Feb. 12, 2013

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