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Former New Orleans Shakespeare director reflects on Katrina and the play

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA- Three performances of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest will be presented at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Opening night is Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., in the McConnell Theater of the Daniel Arts Center. This is followed by a second performance, Thursday, Nov. 8, also at 7:30,  and a final performance on November 9 at 8 p.m.
 
The production is being directed by Aimée Michel, a former Shakespeare company director in New Orleans whose office and home were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  While this production is not about Katrina, it did grow out of that experience.
 
“I chose to direct The Tempest out of a belief in redemption and healing.” Michel says.  “When Katrina happened in August, 2005, I was the artistic director of a professional Shakespeare theatre in New Orleans.  Our theatre offices as well as my home were under over 6 feet of water for 6 weeks and we lost everything both at home and the office.  All the archives for the theatre, all the files, etc....” 
 
The following April the company was able to produce a play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for New Orleans school children. But shortly before opening night the 42-year old actor who was to play Puck suddenly died as a result of a heart attack.  The actor was also scheduled to play Prospero in The Tempest, in the summer of 2006.  They show went on with another actor for A Midsummer Night's Dream, but instead of The Tempest, Michel decided to produce another play. 
 
“And then I came to Simon's Rock.  Now, two years after Katrina, I am finally ready to process all that happened, and the time finally felt right to direct The Tempest.”
 
The Tempest, says Michel, “is a play about a journey through terrible trauma towards healing and forgiveness.  Prospero and his 3 year-old daughter are cast out to sea to drown by his own beloved brother.  By good fortune, he lands on an island, which shelters him and provides for him and his daughter for 12 years.  Once again, fortune presents him with the opportunity to come face to face with this brother and heal.  It takes all of his power and courage to forgive this brother and heal.  But he knows the healing will not happen without the forgiveness. This is the journey many of us affected by Katrina are taking.”
 
 The play is not about Katrina, says Michel, “but certainly it is coming out of my artistic processing of that event.”

Simon's Rock Media Contact:
Briee Della Rocca: 413 644-4706
E-mail: bdellarocca@simons-rock.edu