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Volume 71, Issue 154, Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life & Arts

Fest features 'Tempest'

Houston Shakespeare Festival continues to draw large audiences


The humidity and heat that August brings will soon be replaced by magic and mayhem thanks to the Houston Shakespeare Festival. 

For the 32nd season of the HSF, the University and the City of Houston team up to present two of Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest and Titus Andronicus, at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. 

"Shakespeare's plays continue to resonate with audiences," Sidney Berger, UH School of Theatre director and director of The Tempest, said. "These works often articulate the major questions of everyday in ways that are so compelling that certain lines or scenes live on in people's memories."

Thought to be Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest is directed by Carolyn Houston Boone, UH associate professor of theater. In The Tempest, Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda have lived stranded on an island after Prospero is deposed by his jealous brother Antonio. With powerful magic on Prospero's side, he is able to manipulate his foes and seek retribution. 

Many have the notion that Shakespeare's plays are boring and opt for a Hollywood movie, but nothing could be further from the truth than with Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's early tragedies. 

After a 10-year campaign, Titus returns to Rome with his prisoner Tamora, queen of the Goths. Following Roman customs, Titus sacrifices Tamora's eldest son for his own. Titus is offered the crown of Rome, but refuses to take the throne. In doing so, he unknowingly makes Tamora the new empress and chaos controls the stage until the end. 

Titus Andronicus has other elements that make it one of Shakespeare's more sadistic tragedies: 14 killings, nine of them on stage; six severed members; one case of rape; one live burial; one case of insanity; and one cannibalistic act that involves a pie. 

Instead of following a trend in going overboard with violence, Boone decided for a new way to display a violent act in the play. 

"A chorus of actors will present an object or a happening to represent the bloodletting," Boone said. 

Since HSF's first round in 1975, it has become a major event in Houston's summer entertainment schedule, attracting more than 475,000 people. 

Even though these plays were written centuries ago, Shakespeare knew how please the masses. And during the summer, who doesn't enjoy murder, mayhem and magic with his or her ice cream cone?

All performances begin at 8:30 p.m. at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park and are free to the public, but tickets must be purchased for covered seating. 

HSF runs Wednesdays through Sundays from Saturday to Aug. 12 with The Tempest and Titus Andronicus alternating each day. For more information on HSF, visit

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