Weekender

Company’s season will kick off with The Bard in Bellefonte

The 2015 Bard of Bellefonte company performs in Talleyrand Park.
The 2015 Bard of Bellefonte company performs in Talleyrand Park. Photo provided

For its 21st season, Tempest Productions will partner with two downtown State College venues — The State Theatre and Webster’s Bookstore & Café — and offer performances in public parks and local schools through arts-in-education and youth-in-theater programs.

The season kicks off Aug. 20 with the sixth outing of “The Bard in Bellefonte” in Talleyrand Park and will conclude with “Shakespeare: A Day in the Park” during the summer of 2017. The season includes two dinner theaters at Webster’s Bookstore & Café and three productions at The State Theatre.

“The 21st season is a mix of classics for all ages,” said Cynthia Mazzant, Tempest Productions co-founder and artistic director. “We started with our festivals — The Bard in Bellefonte and StoryBook Theatre, these are our stalwart bookends — using Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and children’s classical literature to bring literature to life for families to share.”

The Tempest main stage productions will bring the works of Edgar Allan Poe and the Greek classic “Medea” to life, and end with a verse play based on stories and poetry.

“It’s an interesting challenge, coming up with a potential slate for a season,” Mazzant said. “Each show must move the company’s mission statement forward — to pick shows that rely on the spoken word, not special effects or action, but the beauty of the language. To make sure that those words are about families and mankind’s struggles and depict our humanity as well as our inhumanity.”

The Bard in Bellefonte festival was designed to be a free community arts event where all ages could come together to play with Shakespeare — his themes, his language and his characters.

“Shakespeare is universal, but many people are afraid of the language or believe that they will never be able to understand what’s going on,” Mazzant said. “The festival is three hours of demystifying his work.”

From dancing to jousting to “speaking the speeches,” the festival asks the audience to join the company in bringing those words and characters to life. In addition, the festival asks families to hang out in the park — bring a picnic, enjoy the beauty of the park and experience the day together.

“It’s a great way to kick off our season, so we hope to keep this an annual event,” Mazzant said. “We’ve grown to a company of 27 for this year’s event and we have our usual games — ‘die your most dramatic death,’ ‘exit pursued by’ and ‘pin the head on Shakespeare.’ ”

Also featured will be juggling, dancing, singing, puppets, masks, soliloquies, sonnets and 10-minute plays where the entire tale of “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” “As You Like It” and others are brought to life.

Following The Bard in Bellefonte, Tempest will stage “Poe: Deep Into That Darkness” at The State Theatre on Nov. 18. The play descends into the maelstrom of Edgar Allan Poe.

“It will mix poetry, dance, storytelling, music, multimedia and theater to bring Poe’s works to life,” Mazzant said.

In March, “Medea” will bring the classic tragedy to life through a new adaptation that explores what happens when love turns to bitter hatred. This production will be held in the upstairs Attic theater at The State Theatre. Tempest will return to the Attic in May with “Wit, Women, & Wine.”

Tempest has been co-producing dinner theater with Webster’s Bookstore & Cafe for the past several years. This year they bring back the one-night-only productions, “The New Deal: WTMP’s 1930s Holiday Radio Show Extravaganza” in December and “Vita & Virginia” in February.

Mazzant said she hopes audiences walk away from all these shows wanting to read more — whether it’s to go back to the original story, poem or play, or to branch out on adaptations of these works.

IF YOU GO

  • What: The Bard in Bellefonte
  • When: 1-4 p.m. Aug. 20
  • Where: Talleyrand Park, Bellefonte
  • Info: www.tempest productions.org
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