DeBessonet and Almond previously collaborated on ambitious adaptations of The Odyssey at San Diego's Old Globe, as well as Don Quixote in Philadelphia. Their new adaptation of The Tempest, which will include a 200-person cast, will be presented Sept. 6-8 at the Delacorte. Admission is free.
The Tempest is conceived and directed by Lear and features book, music and lyrics by Almond, who will also star as Ariel.
The production is inspired by a 1916 event at City College, which featured professional actors working with 1,500 city residents who united for an adaptation of The Tempest, billed as Caliban by the Yellow Sands.
The production is the first of the Public Theater's new Public Works initiative. Public Works is the Off-Broadway company's new program, which aims to build audience engagement in all five boroughs of New York City.
Tony Award winner Benanti (Gypsy, Women on the Verge) will play Goddess, with Tony nominee Lewis (Porgy and Bess) as Prospero, Elrod (Peter and the Starcatcher) as Caliban, Hiller (Love's Labour's Lost) as Trinculo and Ming-Trent (Hands on a Hardbody) as Stephano. The Tempest will feature individuals from such diverse groups as Children's Aid Society (Manhattan); DreamYard (Bronx); Fortune Society (Queens); Brownsville Recreation Center (Brooklyn); and Domestic Workers United (all boroughs, including Staten Island), as well as Ballet Tech, the NYC Public School for Dance, the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Ensemble, the Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, Raya Brass Band and Stephen Duncan.
"Public Works is an opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy of New York City," deBessonet said in a statement. "In this first year we've joined with five organizations that embody some of the most innovative approaches to community building. Together we are shaping a vision of how theatre can transform a community and enrich the civic life of our city."
Tickets to The Tempest are free and are distributed, two per person, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park the day of the show beginning at noon. The Public Theater is offering free tickets through its Virtual Ticketing lottery at shakespeareinthepark.org on the day of the show.