Thursday, September 24, 2009

You're invited to Prospero's island

By Meredith Deliso

“O brave new world. That has such people in’t!”

It was this line from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” that Claire Beckman and John Morgan borrowed in founding their Brooklyn-based repertory theater Brave New World. The husband and wife also met during a production of the play in Vermont in 1983, and ever since have been meaning to put on their own production in Brooklyn.

On September 26 and 27, they do just that, with a site specific, full production of the comedy, set on an island controlled by the banished sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, who uses his magical powers to raise a tempest and shipwreck his enemies there.

Previous productions, including the one Beckman and Morgan were in, are more fantastical. The two envisioned doing their own in as natural an environment as possible, and were able to secure the Coney Island beach, near the New York Aquarium, with the set design including 2,000 folding chairs and sails and rigging on the boardwalk railing to represent the ship during the tempest, with action also in front of the aquarium’s mural.

And while Artistic Director Beckman is keen on having as much realism as possible, with appropriate costumes for the 16th century times and an emphasis on colonialism at the crux of the story, there is still plenty of magic, with mermaids from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, puppets, and a magic show, as well as 25 children from the Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented performing as seagulls, sporting commedia-del-arte-style bird masks.

“The play is full of magic and mystery and comedy,” says Beckman, who, at keeping the event free of cost, is also urging families to come and enjoy the day at the beach. “We want to help the community and give families a nice reason to hit the boardwalk.”

And, rain or shine, the show will go on. “It is called ‘The Tempest!’” said Beckman laughing. “We’ll make due.”

“The Tempest” is September 26 and 27 on the Coney Island boardwalk and beach, adjacent to the aquarium’s Education building at 10th Street. Take the F or Q trains to West 8th Street. Both performances are at 3 p.m.

For more information, as well as to learn about donating to Brave New World, email


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