The 15th anniversary season of The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) (Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director; David Roberts, Managing Director) continues with CTH’s free, summer, uptown production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, presented in partnership with City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage festival.
The Carl Cofield-directed production, which stars New York theater and Broadway veteran Ron Cephas Jones, will transform the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park into an enchanted Caribbean island where the magic takes flight, with an elaborate aerial design elements planned. The third annual CTH Under the Stars presentation holds previews on Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4. Performances, which are free and open to the public, run from July 5 through 26.
The production is geared up to premiere as New York City’s community foundation, The New York Community Trust, has awarded CTH $100,000 to continue its momentum plan, which includes board and staff development, and strategic planning.
“This is precisely the kind of momentum that we hope will signal to others that the Classical Theatre of Harlem is serious about facilitating a sustainable organizational infrastructure that understands art, commerce, diversity and inclusion,” said Ty Jones. “What we’ve accomplished since the financial crisis in 2009 is not only a great example for theater companies but for other institutions and organizations alike.”
Ron Cephas Jones (Of Mice and Men on Broadway, Between Riverside and Crazy, The Blacklist) leads the cast as Prospero, the legitimate Duke of Milan; Prospero was overthrown in a coup arranged by his sister and he seeks revenge by conjuring the spirits. Kimberly Chatterjee (Girl Versus Corinth, Twelfth Night, The Dead) plays his devoted daughter, Miranda, and Reynaldo Piniella (Romeo and Juliet, The Erlkings, The Carrie Diaries, The Daily Show withJon Stewart), her love interest, Ferdinand. Fedna Jacquet (Roots of Liberty, Pan Am, Ti Jean and His Brothers) plays the captive spirit Ariel, and Carl Hendrick Louis (Little Children Dream of God, The King’s Whore, In Fields Where They Lay) is Caliban, the brutish island native who despises his master, Prospero. Tanya Everett (Pousada Azul, Fati’s Last Dance, The Rosa Parks Story) is Antonia, Prospero’s scheming sister, and Ryan Alvarado (Godspell, Hair, The Music Man) her partner-in-crime Sebastian. Richard Busser (Henry V, The Rub, The Good Wife) plays Alonzo, King of Naples and father for Ferdinand, and Brandon Carter (Black Angels Over Tuskegee, Drunk Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost), his honest counsellor, Gonzalo. Emmanuel Brown (Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, Big Love, CBS’s Elementary) portrays Alonzo’s drunken butler, Stephano, and Anthony Vaughn Merchant (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, King Lear) his jester sidekick, Trinculo. Dante Jeanfelix (Hamlet, The American Clock, The Secret Garden) is Master, the ship’s captain, Adrian, a member of Alonso’s court and an ensemble member. Anthony Lalor (Romeo N Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is the Boatswain and fellow member of Alonzo’s court, Francisco. Rounding out the ensemble are Shayshahn MacPherson, Rachel Small and Djaka Souare.
“What fascinates me about the play-and its iconic characters of Prospero, Caliban and Ariel-is that it’s a theatrical gumbo, with an intricate blend of usurping villains, youthful romance, music, humor and conspiracy,” said Cofield, who helmed the critically acclaimed production of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman for CTH last spring. “I am also intrigued by how the protagonist Prospero’s quest for justice leads him to become unjust himself.”
Cofield sets the action in beautiful Hispaniola, the island that is home to both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. “The history of Haiti is nothing short of magical. This tiny Caribbean country won its independence by defeating three European superpowers: France, Britain and Spain, demonstrating the same fighting spirit found in Caliban, and the same longing for freedom as Ariel. The Tempest highlights the dynamics of freedom and captivity, imprisonment and rebellion, authority and tyranny.”
Cofield brings back many artists from Dutchman’s creative team to work on The Tempest, including: Christopher and Justin Swader (scenic design), Rachel Dozier-Ezell (costume design), Alan C. Edwards (lighting design), Eric Sluyter (sound design) and Ralph Stan Lee (stage management). Byron Easley (choreography), Aaron Verdery (aerial design), Shayshahn “Phearnone” MacPherson (music director), and Shawn René Graham (dramaturg) round out the team.
The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater is located in Marcus Garvey Park (enter at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue and walk south to the venue). Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Friday’s curtain is at 8:15 p.m., following Jazzmobile’s free concerts at 7:00 p.m. The venue opens for seating at 7:00 p.m. each night and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays. All performances are free and no tickets are required. For more information, visit www.cthnyc.org or follow #CTHTempest and #SummerStage30 on social media.
The Tempest is presented by The Classical Theatre of Harlem and City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage festival. The show is sponsored in part by Axe-Houghton, Casement, Columbus, Dramatist Guild Fund, Doctorow, Ford Foundation, Google, HCDC, L & N Andreas Foundation, DCA, NYC & Co., NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Puffin Foundation West, SHS Foundation, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, The Office of Councilmember Inez Dickens, The Office of Councilmember Mark Levine, The Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Doug & Paige Armentrout, and Ron Simons Local business partners and sponsors include Barawine, The Cecil, Flamekeepers Hat Club, Harlem Shake, Land Yoga, Lido, Minton’s and Settepani.