The 39th seaon of Free Shakespeare in the Park presented Shakespeare’s epic tale, Pericles, Prince of Tyre in 4 episodes and used a new verse translation by playwright Ellen McLaughlin.The first 3 episodes were live broadcasts using the Unified Virtual Space technique developed by Neal Ormond. The fourth episode ushered a return to in-person performances in the park.Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean adventure set in the classical past. The play spans many years in the life of the hero and his family. The action ricochets all over the Eastern Mediterranean moving from one ancient city to the next with travel animated by peril and punctuated by near-death experiences, tempests, and pirate kidnapping. These elements make Pericles an ideal play to perform episodically in miniseries fashion with cliffhangers bringing you back to for each new installment. Episodes 1 through 3 were performed virtually and broadcast on YouTube Live. As each new episode was performed, the prior episode was made available as an on-demand recording. Episode 4 was performed outdoors and in-person throughout the Bay Area.
Trigger warnings: This episode contains verbal references to incest and sexuality, but no graphic descriptions or depictions.
“In you lives my hope” Pericles washes up on the shores of Pentapolis and is restored by fisherfolk who inform him of a nearby tournament for the hand of Thaisa, daughter of the local king Simonides. Pericles competes and wins the competition and the love of Thaisa. / Directed by Carla Pantoja
Trigger warnings: This episode contains verbal references to incest and sexuality, but no graphic descriptions or depictions.)
“The storm without, the storm within” The couple set out for Tyre, but Thaisa dies at sea while giving birth to a baby girl, Marina. Pericles survives the storm and sails to Tarsus where he entrusts his newborn to his old allies, the rulers of Tarsus before returning to the sea. In the court of Tarsus, Marina grows into a paragon of beauty and grace. Jealous for her biological daughter, Marina’s foster mother seeks her death, but before Marina can be assassinated she is kidnapped by pirates and carried off to sea. / Directed by Elizabeth Carter
Trigger warnings: This episode contains a scene in which someone is threatened by a knife; there are also scenes of loss, death, and abduction.
“This great miracle” Marina is sold to a bawdy house in Mytilene. Marina’s virtue disrupts the disreputable business and so is removed to an honorable house on the island where she earns a living as a teacher. Wracked by grief, a despondent Pericles drifts into Mytilene after learning in Tarsus that his daughter is dead. Lysimachus, the local governor, summons Marina thinking her grace might comfort the depressed prince. Thus begins a mounting exchange between father and daughter that ends in joyous recognition when Marina utters the name of her dead mother, Thaisa. But the gods are not yet done with Pericles. Diana descends and orders him to visit her temple in Ephesus. There he must recount the tale of all his hardships in full, for in Ephesus, another reunion awaits. / Directed by Carla Pantoja
Trigger warnings: The first half of this episode takes place around a brothel and includes language and physicalization to depict the activities around this establishment. Effort has been taken to keep all staging PG-rated.
Directors of Pericles, Prince of Tyre
The responsibility for direction was shared by four directors. Carla Pantoja, served as the Director of Vision to ensure artistic continuity of the entire production. She also directed Episodes 2 and 4. Pantoja is a long-time associate of the Festival having served as actor, director, teaching artist, resident artist and fight director. She's also worked with theaters throughout the Bay Area and with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In taking on this project Pantoja comments that “Pericles is an epic tale that holds so much of what this last year has been like. It is a journey that will forever change the traveler. When we take Pericles’ journey, we transform with him as he goes from a young cavalier suitor, to a man weighed down with grief, finally emerging to rediscover the family he longed for the entire time.”
The Festival’s Artistic Director Rebecca J Ennals (who also directed the Festival’s 2019 musical version of As You Like It) directed Episode 1. Episode 3 was directed by Elizabeth Carter, whose 2020 virtual production of King Lear received wide acclaim. Carter is the recent recipient of the Lloyd Richards New Futures Residency award at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The pre-show Creator/Director was Carolina Morones whose task was to thoughtfully guide the audience through this episodic journey, Morones also created and directed interactive pre-show material that summarized the story so far and engaged audience members in a game that was played from home. Additionally, she perfromed in the show as Marina .
Pericles was co-authored by Shakespeare and George Wilkins. The script for this production is a modern verse translation of the play by Ellen McLaughlin in partnership with PlayOn Shakespeare. Of the play, McLaughlin says, “This is Shakespeare at his most sublime, and it was a lovely challenge to meet him in the beauty of his language and try to do right by him. Once I got inside it, I was humbled and moved by it, even beyond what I anticipated.”