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A new take on Shakespeare’s tale of passion, revenge and forgiveness

From left, Rose Corrigan plays the role of Miranda, Jerry Ferraccio is Prospero and Quinn Mander portrays Caliban in a rehearsal of the Santa Fe Shakespeare Society’s production of “The Tempest.” (Courtesy of Philip Holt)

From left, Rose Corrigan plays the role of Miranda, Jerry Ferraccio is Prospero and Quinn Mander portrays Caliban in a rehearsal of the Santa Fe Shakespeare Society’s production of “The Tempest.” (Courtesy of Philip Holt)

SANTA FE, N.M. — When the Santa Fe Shakespeare Society launches its performances of “The Tempest” tonight, it will be looking to cast aside the Victorian reserve and other historical influences that separated the poet’s words from his soul.

“We’re going back to the meat and marrow of what Shakespeare wrote,” promised Jerry Ferraccio, founder of the society and co-director of this summer’s play.

“‘The Tempest’ has a lot more juice and passion in it than as you normally see it. Between then and now, the Puritans and Victorians pulled the sex and revenge out,” he said. “We’re going right back to the text and discovering it anew for everybody.”

But don’t worry – you don’t have to keep the kids away. It’s a family show. But it won’t be a bloodless recitation of the lines.

“You call for vengeance and it’s a blood-curdling cry in the core of your body,” he said.

And Prospero won’t be stand-offish from his daughter Miranda, but will fully express his deep love and desire to protect her, according to Ferraccio. The play is more about that tender care than the manipulation Prospero undertakes to find her a good husband, he said.

You can see it all at 6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning tonight and through Aug. 16 at the courtyard of the Monte del Sol Charter School, 4157 Walking Rain Rd. in the Nava Ade neighborhood. Admission is by donation, with suggested levels from $10 to $20.

Santa Fe has had a history of Shakespeare in the Park – or the campus or wherever a pleasant outdoor venue could be found. But an earlier group, with which Ferraccio also was involved, went bust in 2003. He came back and, in 2011, founded the Santa Fe Shakespeare Society, which has presented five plays since then: “Much Ado About Nothing,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night,” “As You Like It” and, just this spring, a touring production of “Taming of the Shrew.”

Last summer’s performances also were at Monte del Sol, but earlier ones took place on the campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Ferraccio said Monte del Sol’s courtyard is “so gorgeous and lovely,” with trees and picnic tables. “It’s quiet because it’s sheltered on all sides,” he added.

So why is the group presenting “The Tempest” this year?

“It’s my favorite play, personally,” he said. “It’s unusually suited to outdoor theaters,” with all of its action actually taking place outdoors.

And, Ferraccio said, “It’s all about forgiveness. I think we need a little bit more of that in the current climate of the country.”

The forgiveness comes at the end of the play, when Prospero rounds up wrong-doers who previously ousted him from his position as Duke of Milan. He and his daughter were left adrift on a raft, but survived on their little island with the help of books and magic. As a matter of fact, Prospero orchestrated the shipwreck that stranded his enemies on that very same island by conjuring a storm.

He also orchestrated a meeting of Miranda and the man with whom she would fall in love, with several misdirections and some confusion along the way. But, in the end, rather than punish the men who left him to die, Prospero forgives them.

The play has 11 cast members (a number that may change along the way, Ferraccio said) ranging in age from about 20 to the early 60s.

Ferraccio said he started reading Shakespeare when he was 8 or 9, “before I knew it was supposed to be high-falutin’.” He acted professionally for 15 years before going back to college to get bachelor’s and master’s degrees, focusing on directing. Much of his work has involved Shakespeare’s plays, he said, and he gives talks in local schools and teaches private students about the Bard of Avon.

Audiences will have chairs provided, although they are welcome to bring their own chairs if they need special accommodation or just more comfort, Ferraccio said. People can even save a seat while they use a picnic table to eat a picnic dinner.

“It’s real laid-back. There are not a lot of rules,” he said.