“Such stuff as dreams are made on …”
William Shakespeare wrote those words for Prospero, the conjurer at the heart of “The Tempest.”
But they also apply to another magician: Teller (the smaller, quieter half of Rio headliners Penn &Teller), whose dream of a re-imagined, magic-fueled “Tempest” will come true at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in April.
The world premiere of Teller’s “Tempest,” adapted and directed by Teller and award-winning playwright and director Aaron Posner, will be staged April 5-13 in a 500-seat, climate-controlled tent in Symphony Park. Ticket sales begin Jan. 10.
The Smith Center’s first co-production (and its first Shakespeare), “The Tempest” will be presented in association with Harvard University’s Tony-winning American Repertory Theater.
In addition to Teller’s magic, the production will feature music by Tom Waits and movement by Matt Kent, associate artistic director of the shape-shifting troupe Pilobolus.
“This is a whole new thing for Las Vegas,” says Teller, who previously collaborated with Posner on a 2008 version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
On a more personal level, “I have loved ‘The Tempest’ since I was a kid,” Teller adds during a telephone interview.
Little wonder, considering that “the central character is a magician,” who’s “been terribly wronged” and takes vengeance by “creating horrifying and fabulous and funny and weird magic shows.”
And “using your magic to take revenge is a really interesting idea,” Teller concludes.
Even before The Smith Center opened in March 2012, Teller shared his vision of a new “Tempest” with officials at the new performing arts complex.
Although “at the time, we were preoccupied” with opening the center, “we thought, ‘Wow, how often does this happen?’ ” recalls Paul Beard, the center’s vice president and chief operating officer.
Smith Center officials also are “thrilled” to be working with ART, which has captured two consecutive Tony Awards for revivals of “Porgy and Bess” (coming to The Smith Center in April) and “Pippin” (expected to be part of the center’s 2014-15 season of touring Broadway musicals).
“We have a huge amount of confidence” that this “Tempest” will be “an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience,” Smith Center president Myron Martin comments.
There’s also a practical reason to premiere his new “Tempest” in Las Vegas, Teller notes.
After all, “this is where I do the Penn &Teller show,” he reasons. And staging “The Tempest” in Las Vegas “allowed me to rehearse ‘The Tempest’ during the day and do ‘Penn &Teller’ at night.”
Rehearsals are expected to begin next month, with Broadway veteran Patrick Page leading the cast as Prospero.
Page’s Broadway credits range from Scar in “The Lion King” and the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and, most recently, Rufus Buckley in “A Time to Kill.” (Longtime Utah Shakespeare Festival fans also will remember Page as a leading player in the 1980s.)
Page “earned his way through college as a professional magician,” Teller says. “He’s a real magician who’s also a real Shakespearean actor.”
That combination underlines Teller’s determination to put magic center stage in this version of “The Tempest.”
“No one has ever taken the magic of ‘The Tempest’ seriously,” he contends. “That’s one of the ideas behind this show. When Prospero amazes the characters with his magic, he should also amaze the audience.”
So don’t be surprised if Caliban, an enslaved monster at Prospero’s command, turns out to have two heads — courtesy of two Pilobolus performers.
Adding to the audacious theatrical mix: songs by the gravel-voiced Waits, who “has a whole other kind of mystique,” Beard comments. (Waits also has a Las Vegas connection: an Academy Award nomination for scoring director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1982 “One for the Heart,” set in a magical, make-believe Las Vegas.)
Existing tunes from Waits’ bluesy, world-weary repertoire will be featured in this “Tempest,” according to Teller. “There may be some new stuff, but we can’t count on that.”
Either way, “we’re not cutting and pasting the music,” he adds, explaining that “the songs fit” the play’s action.
Overall, this “Tempest” will be one “that Shakespeare-philes will appreciate — but you don’t have to be a Shakespeare expert to enjoy this production,” Martin comments. “This is a production for all ages.”
Or, as Teller tells it, “I think this is going to be the most entertaining ‘Tempest’ that’s ever been — including Shakespeare’s.”
Time will tell. But the mere fact of the production’s existence — along with the August launch of the national tour of the Tony-winning musical “Kinky Boots” at The Smith Center — signals that, in Martin’s view, “Las Vegas has a place where great work can emanate.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.