Philadelphia Inquirer Article: Philly Theater Notes

This article appears in the August 11, 2021 issue of the Philadelphia Inquier. By Jan M. Von Bergen. Clikc the link below to access the original article.

Harrowgate neighbors have shaped Shakespeare to fit their own time and place

Pirates kidnap the daughter of Pericles, take her to an island kingdom, and sell her to a brothel. That’s just one element of the many plot twists and turns in William Shakespeare’s Pericles: Prince of Tyre. But it’s the element that captured the imagination of a team of community artists from the Harrowgate neighborhood who are staging an outdoor version of the play in Harrowgate Park this weekend. Monica Wright, who owns the neighborhood restaurant Mango Bahia and plays Peril in the adaptation of the play, Peril’s Island, says the Harrowgate rendition combines her neighborhood’s two most notable characteristics: chaos and caring. Harrowgate, near Kensington, is “a perfectly mixed-up neighborhood where people take care of each other in the midst of every type of chaos,” she said.

“We have chaos, but it’s organized chaos.”

In the play, neighborhood children gather materials to restore a beloved fountain that once existed in real life at the park. Meanwhile, pirates come by and tear apart their work. But, because both pirates and kids gather at the park, they build relationships — as Harrowgate’s neighbors do in real life with people living with addiction or selling drugs. The pirate/brothel thread of the play generated a conversation about how the neighborhood’s economy coexists with the illicit economy, said Kittson O’Neill, Shakespeare in Clark Park’s artistic director. Peril’s Island is directed by Sam Tower and was written by Alexandra Espinoza and people from the community in collaboration with the Shakespeare in Clark Park organization. Wright, who is in the play with her two granddaughters, called the process of developing the play and rehearsing with the group ”extremely peaceful. … I love going, and I’m looking forward to performing.”