Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Night at the Theater: Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and What it Teaches Us About Living With Intent

The Tempest: P. Matthieu in the Role of Gonzalo
The Tempest: Public Works/Public Theater
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Last summer, a friend invited my partner and I to see him in a production of The Tempest (shout out to Patrick Mattieu in the role of Gonzalo!) at the Delacourte Theater. While tickets to the Delacourte are free, you still have to enter a lottery to get them so we were quite excited to actually be picked. This production was part of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park series as well as their inaugural Public Works initiative.


Now, I had attended performances at the Public Theater before, but little did I know the treat that lay in store for me this time. In his welcoming remarks to the audience, Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, promised that before the night was over, no fewer than 250 people would stand or move across the stage.  Well, he definitely delivered on that promise! What followed, under a beautiful summer night’s sky, was 100 minutes of pure magical, whimsical delight.  This production took its inspiration from a staging of Caliban by the Yellow Sands, conceived and staged as a mass-participation pageant by poet Percy MacKaye in the early 1900’s at Harlem’s Lewisohn Stadium.

Community Building

The Tempest attained an exquisite vibrancy, reflective of the diversity that is New York City, by intentionally including an exciting mix of
  • community organizations located in neighborhoods across the city's five boroughs who work with populations that are under-served or considered to be marginalized
  • experienced, professional actors, novices and the non-experienced (three members of the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance made a brief appearance!)
  • the very young and the "seasoned"
  • colorful costumes
  • cultural and ethnic influences
  • dance & musical traditions such as hiphop, ballet, mariachi, pop and more
And, I assure you that it was all artfully orchestrated by Lear DeBessonet in her Public Theater directorial debut.

An Act of Intent

What’s any of this got to do with living with intent?

Sweet DreamsAs discussed in Building Blocks of Intent: Part 2, the arts are a source of delight and a welcome interlude from the inevitable stresses of daily living.  From that standpoint alone, this production worked marvelously, and therefore moves us towards a lifestyle grounded in intent.

However when we consider the Public's founding principles as stated by Eustis in the program notes:
“. . .theater and democracy are inseparable. . .” and “. . .Joe Papp [founder of the Public Theater (1967)] believed that the best theater in the world—the greatest playwright, the greatest actors—belonged to all Americans and should be available free of charge."  Further ". . .in order to complete the democratic theatrical circuit, it was not enough to offer great plays to New Yorkers, he needed to put the voices of those New Yorkers on stage”.
as well as the following
“Art is an experience, not a commodity; art like life, is a set of relationships, not an object . . .” and it was “. . .hoped this production of The Tempest embodie[d] those truths.” [emphasis added]
we can begin to see how the intentional emphasis placed on creating opportunities for diverse, community participation and engagement— both as part of the theater's overarching mission as well as the specific goal of this production— are consistent with core values of permaculture and therefore an intentional lifestyle. Additionally, describing art as a set of relationships also aligns the creative process, its participants and its output with those same values.

It is this combination of factors that make the Public's production of The Tempest an excellent example of the role art can play in a life of intent.

Changing Your Intent


 Support the Arts: What You Can Do Now!

  1. Attend a local cultural program or event, volunteer with or donate to a community arts organization in your neighborhood. Your local paper is an excellent place to start to checking out what's going on near you.

  2. Giving the gift of the arts is also a lovely way to express your appreciation of friends and loved ones. You'll be creating experiences and memories that last a lifetime, don't take up space (except in your heart and mind), and never have to be exchanged or discarded.

  3. If you've created, attended, or participated in a cultural event or program or plan to do so soon, drop me a comment here, or start a discussion on the With Intent Facebook or Google+ pages.


  1. Sounds like quite the production of The Tempest, and it seems like they put some thought into connecting the city to all of its citizens. That's an admirable goal for a play, one that should be more widely adopted.

    Art at its best is a public service, and it brings people together in all kinds of ways. The results are often intangible, but from the intangibles come the most interesting things.

    1. Hi Nick,

      It was truly a magical evening, and the fact that the Delacourte is an outdoors theater made it even more so. I agree that the intangible, often overlooked, can yield some interesting outcomes, in ways you least expect.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Nick!