The Tempest

30 April 2014

Edited and directed by Kelly Hunter for an audience of children with autism.
Six actors take the children on a journey of clowns, spirits, monsters and wizards on an island where nobody feels ordinary.

Kelly Hunter edits and directs The Tempest using sensory drama games that she has created over the last ten years to help combat the challenges of autism. This show is a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and The Ohio State University (Ohio State).

Performed by six actors, three from Ohio State and three from the UK, The Tempest will premiere in Stratford-upon-Avon this summer as part of the RSC's summer season 2014. It will run for 13 performances from 24 June – 4 July 2014 at The Other Place at the Courtyard Theatre as part of the Midsummer Mischief Festival. From 16th-20th July it will perform at the Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts, Haugland Learning Center and the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus Ohio. The production is aimed toward 8-16 year olds.

The cast comprises Greg Hicks, Chris MacDonald and Eva Lily Tausig from the UK and Kevin McClatchy, Robin Post and Mahmoud Osman from Ohio State. The production is designed by Anthony Lamble.

The production involves the actors and children engaging in a number of games that form The Hunter Heartbeat Method. This method has been developed by Kelly and is the basis of the Shakespeare and Autism research project at Ohio State, a partnership between the Department of Theatre and the Nisonger Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, which in turn is part of a groundbreaking partnership between the University and the RSC. The three-year project engages the question of whether drama – particularly Shakespeare – can break through the communicative blocks of autism.

Introducing the show Kelly says;

“The 75 minute production is played in the round with a maximum of 15 children per performance; within this intimate setting the actors will invite the children to join them playing sensory games to bring the story to life. The games use the fundamental themes of Shakespeare: the heartbeat rhythm of his language, seeing with the mind's eye and an exploration of the senses to combat the communicative blocks of autism.

“The games are sensory, physical and fun to play, created to heighten the child's awareness of the world around them and provide an opportunity for them to experience and explore their own physicality, feelings and voice.

“Making eye contact, improving spatial awareness, developing facial expressiveness and building language skills are key targets within the games as well as introducing imaginative play and the concept of 'playing a part'. Shakespeare is used to wake the children up to their own lives and any child, no matter where they are on the spectrum, can play”.

A maximum of thirty carers, teachers, parents and others may also watch the show.

Kelly Hunter's most recent RSC credits include playing Goneril and Hermione in David Farr's productions of King Lear and The Winter's Tale in Stratford, London and New York, 2009-2011. She first worked at the RSC playing Lola in The Blue Angel directed by Trevor Nunn, the inaugural production when The Other Place re-opened in 1991.

The Tempest follows on from the RSC's series of relaxed performances for children and young people with learning and sensory difficulties. The theatre will be adapted to create a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere and participants will be free to take time out of the auditorium at any time. For tickets contact the RSC Ticket Hotline on 0844 800 1110.

For further information, please contact Amy.belson@rsc.org.uk  on 01789 412622 or Philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk  on 020 7845 0512.

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