Princeton Battlefield is one of the most dramatic sites in the town, serving as a critical location during the Revolutionary War. However, in recent years, various performance groups have harnessed the drama ingrained into the grounds by using the battlefield as the location for their shows. This weekend, the Cradle Theatre Company plans do the same with their production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” on Saturday, September 27 at 6 p.m.
Spearheaded by Sam Kessler ’15, the play is a collaborative effort between the Cradle Theatre Company, the Princeton Shakespeare Company and Princeton Battlefield State Park. Kessler is currently a member of Cradle, an independent theater company founded in 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The group began as a student-run operation; however, the leadership of the organization has since graduated and transformed Cradle into a non-profit, according to its website.
The company started a Kickstarter campaign for the production on August 26, 2014 with a funding goal of $1,000. The group had raised $729 as of Wednesday night with the fundraising period ending on Saturday, September 27. As per the official regulations of the crowd sourced funding website, Cradle will receive none of the funds unless they reach their originally stated goal.
The description provided on the Kickstarter page gives donors and potential viewers alike a glimpse of the tone of the production — a humorous tale of fishermen, pirates, love, loss and humanity with a hint of Old Hollywood.
“We wanted to roll with the summer blockbuster feel of the show, and so we’re adding tie-ins to classic Hollywood movies. We have a score with little sound bytes reminiscent of Wolfgang Korngold and John Williams to make you feel like you’re in the midst of this blockbuster spectacle,” Kessler explained.
Aside from producing the play, Kessler will act in the production, making up one of just five actors who together will portray the 39 characters in the show. The other four actors are affiliated with the Cradle Theatre Company and not the University.
The five actors each served as directors for the play, providing guidance for the scenes in which they do not appear. The group has conducted rehearsals at Fordham University for a few months; however, this weekend will be the first time the actors perform on the battlefield, an exciting dynamic for the actors and the audience alike.
Kessler has contrived a simple set consisting of a backdrop strung between two trees and a theater block with seating on three sides of the stage for an immersive experience.
“Pericles is kind of a weird play because critics hate it. They’re like, ‘This is not good Shakespeare.’ But it’s really fun onstage,” Kessler explained of his choice to produce one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. “In Shakespeare’s time, it was one of his most popular plays. It was actually more commercially successful than other plays like Hamlet.”
The production is not the first to occur at Princeton Battlefield. Last fall, the Princeton Shakespeare Company put on “As You Like It” on the grounds. The year before, Kessler acted in a production of “Cato” that integrated the battlefield into the set, an experience that prompted his interest in bringing “Pericles” to the location.
Following this weekend’s performance, the Cradle Theatre Company will bring the play to SoHo next month before taking it on tour. “I’d love to take [the production] to Baltimore since that’s where the company is from,” Kessler added.
The production promises to “plunge the audience into a world of shipwrecks, assassins, pirates, jousting and reanimation [with] a cameo appearance by the goddess Diana herself,” according on the company’s Kickstarter page.
“The most exciting part of the play is that it sneaks up on you and suddenly hits you in this really human piece of yourself later,” Kessler said of his fondness of the work. “You get sucked into the adventure, and you like Pericles. It’s just a beautiful ending.”