Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shakespeare in the Park? Feh, we've got Calderón

There was Shakespeare in the Park this summer. Now there’s Calderón in the Park.

Festival of Fools got a little tired of the prevalence of the British bard in outdoor classical productions, so this month, the Park Slope-based theater company is putting on Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s best-known play, “Life is a Dream,” for two weekends starting this Saturday at the Prospect Park pagoda.

“I love classical verse, it’s a pity that it isn’t being explored anymore,” said Tim Bungeroth, artistic director of the troupe. “People are afraid to branch out from Shakespeare’s shadow because he’s so great. My whole goal is to produce new Neo-Classical theater for a modern audience in a modern vernacular.”

This 400-year-old play isn’t quite so modern, but Bungeroth couldn’t resist putting on one of his favorites in the outdoor space this summer. The “Inception” of the 17th century, “Life is a Dream” explores the conflict between dreams and reality through the story of Segismund, a prince of Poland who is imprisoned after living up to a prophecy that predicted that he would rule with tyranny. After being banished a second time, he has trouble determining what’s real and what’s the stuff of dreams.

Calderón’s questions on morality and reality are good stuff (just wrap your head around the concept, “Life is a dream from which only death awakens us”), but the epic sword battles in and around the pagoda are sure to enthrall.

“The most exciting thing about this production has been learning the Spanish rapier style, which is very derivative of bull fighting,” said Bungeroth, who plays Segismund. “It’s very easy for me to imagine myself as a bull in a ring.”

“Life is a Dream” at the Prospect Park Music Pagoda (enter the park at Empire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, no phone), Aug. 14–15, 22 and 28 at 2 pm. Free. For info, visit


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