Magic, mayhem, and madness unfold in this classic story of love, revenge, and forgiveness. Based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Bitterroot is a modern adaptation set in the American West. Prospero and his daughter Miranda have been stranded in the Montana wilderness for twelve years. When fate brings Prospero’s evil brother to Montana, Prospero must decide whether to exact his revenge or forgive his enemies. But can Prospero accept that his daughter wants to marry the son of an enemy? And can he forgive himself for the way he treated his servants Caliban and Ariel? Ultimately, it's up to the audience to decide Prospero’s fate in this highly theatrical adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic. The play has a flexible cast with larger roles written for adults or teenage actors, medium-sized roles for younger actors, and a chorus of small roles meant to be played by the very young. It is ideal for theatre camps, or youth theatres that have an ensemble of actors of a variety of ages. Run time: 90 minutes.
With Playwright James Venhaus
What inspired you to write this play?
The play was commissioned by Orphasn Girl Children’s Theater in Butte, Montana. They were looking for a Montana-based play, and we had worked together before on another one of my Shakespeare adaptations. We workshopped the play with a group of young actors, and a lot of their input directly influenced the final draft of the play. I love writing with a specific group of children in mind.
What's your favorite part or line in the play? Why?
There is a scene where Miranda teaches Ferdinand how to play chess. She uses it as a metaphor for relationships, and she shows him how to transform the “game” of chess in which pieces chase each other around the chessboard, into a “dance” where each player gets to know the other play so well that they begin to anticipate how the other person moves, thinks and feels.
Why did you decide to write a play based on “The Tempest”?
I’ve always loved the play, and I think that many of the themes resonate with today’s audiences. Through The Tempest, Shakespeare made some very bold statements about colonization, and how we tend to treat people who are different than us.
What did you try to achieve with this play?
I hope that this play provides an introduction to Shakespeare, but I also want the play to stand on its own as a play that is fun to produce and provides acting challenges for all of the performers as well as an important lesson about redemption and forgiveness for the audience.
Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
I am happy to work with schools or theatres that want to produce Bitterroot to help make the play fit the needs of their group.