Theater enthusiasts looking for respite will soon find a poignant parallel – and a moment to reflect on these challenges – with the Rutgers University–Camden production of what might be the perfect pandemic-era play.
The Department of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts will present “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” – one of William Shakespeare’s rarely performed romances – from Thursday, December 9 to Sunday, December 11 in the Walter K. Gordon Theater on the Rutgers–Camden campus.
The fairy-tale adventure centers around the hero, Pericles, who is nearly seduced into a world of evil. He goes on a journey to escape this danger and is tested by villanous kings and queens, terrible storms, pirates and much more. In the process, he gains, loses and then recovers everything that he loves.
Director Damon Bonetti, a part-time lecturer of theater, says that audience members can easily relate to the hero’s hardships with pandemic struggles, and reflect on the twists and turns of their own fortunes.
“As Pericles laments,” recites Bonetti, “‘Oh, you Gods. Why do you make us love your goodly gifts and then snatch them straight away?’ Many people have lost loved ones, jobs, projects and time over the pandemic. In ‘Pericles,’ our hero undergoes job-like hardships and overcomes them, but what makes him human is that he does reach a point where he seems broken and pulls through.”
The Rutgers–Camden director notes that the new Omicron coronavirus variant and the distant threats of more social restrictions or lockdowns make the play’s themes of triumph over adversity more timely than ever.
He adds that one of the main reasons he chose the play is its direct resonance to emerging from the pandemic and returning to storytelling. Live theater was shut down in March 2020, he explains, so he crafted the opening scenes and scenery to create a sense of the actors coming together to tell stories once again. The play thus transitions from a “lo-fi type of presentation” – using common objects found around the theater, such as ladders, backstage equipment and leftover scenery from previous shows – to suddenly utilizing the full scope of resources that Rutgers–Camden’s Walter K. Gordon Theater has to offer.
“It’s a love letter to the magic of live theater,” says Bonetti, co-founder and producing artistic director of Philadelphia Artists’ Collective. “You don’t need expensive costumes to articulate character, but maybe just a cape.”
The cast of 15 Rutgers–Camden students is led by Josh Louis of Voorhees as Pericles and Rutgers–Camden Student Government Association President Sydney Johnson of Kinnelon as his wife, Thaisa. Their daughter Marina is played by Micah Addison of Burlington Township.
Evening performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and a matinee performance will be at 2 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a special matinee for area high schools at 10 a.m. Friday.
Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for seniors, alumni and Rutgers employees; and $8 for students. Admission is free for Rutgers students with ID. Tickets can be purchased online, at the theater box office one hour prior to showtime, in advance at the Impact Booth in the Campus Center or by phone at 856-225-6211.
Please note that attendees must wear masks at all times while inside the theater.
The Walter K. Gordon Theater is located at 314 Linden Street on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Get directions to Rutgers–Camden.