Storms, Spirits, and Sorcerers: Shakespeare's The Tempest in Chicago Tonight

In the wilds of Shakespeare’s mind, an exiled sorcerer lives on an island with his young daughter. The sorcerer, Prospero, sees a ship drawing near the island: a ship containing the brother and king that betrayed him. He concocts a tempest that sinks the ship and strands everyone but the ship’s crew on the island – so Prospero may take his revenge.

There’s danger! True Love! Problematic servitude and depictions of slavery! Drunkards!

Tonight at 7pm you can see a production of The Tempest for yourself – and for free.

Chicago’s Back Room Shakespeare Project is a gift like no other. Theatre actors from around the city get together, read the play once, rehearse it once, and then put on a Shakespeare production the likes of which Billy himself – and his original audiences – would have been proud to see.

There’s no director.

It’s performed in the back of a bar.

And there are basically no rules. The actors encourage audience members to strut across the stage for more drinks, to eat and take pictures and talk and interact with the characters. There are hardly any props – it’s just the actors themselves and an open space for them to perform in – and the actors themselves are often drinking and having a good time, as well.

I saw a Back Room Shakespeare production of King John back in September. They gender swapped Philip The Bastard, who was played by Elizabeth Laidlaw, and it was…epic. I don’t have the words to describe how cool and on point her performance was. She was stupendous.

So tonight, Back Room Shakespeare is putting on The Tempest at Fireside Restaurant & Lounge on North Ravenswood. Doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 7pm. Remember: Admission is free!

I had intended to review The Tempest a few days before the play tonight, but life got in the way and, although I reread the play this week to refresh my memory, I didn’t have time to properly review it and the most recent film adaptation. I first read The Tempest when I was nineteen, and I recall fond feelings for it. Miranda and Ferdinand were memorably sweet, and Ariel forced to act like Prospero’s trained pigeon also stayed in my memory bank. Upon rereading it, however, I discovered that … this is not my favorite Shakespeare play. And therein lied my problem with reviewing it in a short amount of time.

Yet here I am, going to see it tonight. Well, of course!  Problematic areas of the play aside (I have conflicted feelings about Caliban’s characterization and the entire subplot of him, Trinculo, and Stephano), I know Back Room Shakespeare will make it magical, and there are beautiful monologues to be had in this play.

There could be no better way to pass a snowy Chicago winter evening then snug in a warm restaurant and bar, surrounded by wildly enthusiastic (inebriated) theatre and bard geeks, watching a play.

So come and join me at the Fireside tonight! We will eat, drink, be merry, and hiss at Antonio every time he plots murder!



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