CU takes Shakespeare on the road to spread message of forgiveness in Colorado schools

In "The Tempest," Prospero conjures a mighty storm to shipwreck his enemies on his remote island domain. But as he plots revenge on those who wronged him years before, he ponders his actions and at the last moment turns to forgiveness.

“The rarer action is in virtue rather than vengeance,” Prospero says, renouncing his schemes for payback.

As a way to spread this message of forgiveness, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) and the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) captured the spirit of "The Tempest" and took it on the road this spring to over 40 Colorado schools.  

During the program, four professional actors -- using Japanese bunraku-style puppets to represent Prospero and his spirit servant Ariel -- perform an abbreviated version of the play. The actors then lead the students in small-group exercises exploring alternatives to violence based on the latest CSPV research.

“This is really about how to relate to other people and deal with conflict in your life. This performance and the workshops that follow focus on the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness as a tool for ending the cycle of violence,” says CSF Literary Manager Amanda Giguere, who co-created the program with Timothy Orr, interim producing artistic director.

The play emphasizes that there is always a choice between continuing the “cycles of revenge” and choosing not to retaliate, says Beverly Kingston, director of the center. She notes that 33 percent of American high school students had been in at least one physical fight in the preceding 12 months, according to the 2011 federal youth risk behavior survey.

“You can see that in every one of those fights, someone had to make a decision to retaliate for some reason,” Kingston says. “Violence really begins with a decision and we all have a choice how we respond to difficult circumstances in our lives. That’s the message of this play.”

The production of "The Tempest" is the second collaboration between the two CU-Boulder organizations. CSF's “Twelfth Night” anti-bullying tour went on the road in 2011 and has been seen by more than 22,000 Colorado schoolchildren. That inaugural program examined the problem of bullying through the character Malvolio.

The innovative anti-violence school programs have been featured prominently in print, online and on television media across Colorado and nationally.