Shakespeare in Clark Park is back again this summer—with a Drexel twist. Adrienne Mackey, an adjunct professor of voice and diction in the Theatre program in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, is directing “The Tempest” for SCP, a theater company that showcases free, outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s plays in West Philadelphia.
Mackey is known for her avant-garde work with her company, Swim Pony Performing Arts, and she’s shaking things up for the family-friendly SCP show by featuring a female actress as lead character Prospero, traditionally played by a male actor. Mackey scored Barrymore Award-winning actress Catharine Slusar to play Prospero for the five-day event.
“I don't generally work a ton with the theatrical canon but I had an idea about Catharine Slusar as Prospero, and of Shakespeare's works I've always found ‘The Tempest’ the most interesting,” she said.
Mackey was familiar with SCP because her husband Bradley Wrenn, who is designing the show, had performed in previous productions. Mackey also previously worked with the husband of SCP’s artistic director, Marla Burkholder.
“Having lots of experience creating pieces for non-traditional venues, I thought I could bring something exciting to the park,” Mackey said.
Mackey plans on using the park as part of the scenery. The characters will move around the space like it’s the mysterious island depicted in the play.
She also plans to involve the audience in the action. Mackey wants viewers to feel that they are part of the play without even moving from their seats.
“There are many mentions of ‘spirits’ in the play and I liked the idea of the audience as an embodiment of that,” she said. One of those spirits, Ariel, will take on a very different manifestation under Mackey’s direction. She’ll be less a person in an outfit performing and more a presence who can appear anywhere.
“In Shakespeare, the fourth wall of naturalism is never really present anyway; characters can talk to the people sitting in front of them at any time,” Mackey said.
“The Tempest” is pulling local musician Sean Hoots of roots-soul band Hoots & Hellmouth out of his studio and dropping him in the nine-acre park. Hoots will be in the thick of the performance action, providing original music for the play. It will be his first experience working with a theater production.
“Once Sean came on as musician it really solidified the concept for me of a strange place filled with sound and space that the audience becomes a part of,” Mackey said.
Hoots brings another Drexel connection to “The Tempest.” His band has released two albums, “Hoots & Hellmouth” and “The Holy Open Secret,” on Drexel’s student-run record label, MAD Dragon Records.
“The Tempest” will be performed July 24–28 at 7 p.m. in Clark Park, weather permitting. More information can be found at shakespeareinclarkpark.org.