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Up on the roof! New troupe does Shakespeare under the stars • Brooklyn Paper

Up on the roof! New troupe does Shakespeare under the stars

Magic man: Ben Vershbow stars as Prospero in a new production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” that stands in a Greenpoint rooftop for a deserted island.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A new theater company devoted to performing Shakespeare’s classics in unexpected places is starting off on the right foot — with a production of “The Tempest” on a Greenpoint rooftop.

Porpentine Theater Co. founder Peter James Cook has been dreaming of directing the Bard’s fantastical comedy on a rooftop ever since moving here six years ago and becoming acquainted with the tradition of the Brooklyn rooftop party.

“I loved the idea of an urban island looking out on the city,” said the Greenpoint director, who’s worked at more traditional venues such as The Brick in Williamsburg and DUMBO’s Galapagos Art Space. “I liked the idea of escaping from the city by going a floor up.”

It was only a matter of finding the right roof, and after an initial location fell through, Cook turned to Craigslist. He quickly found an available space on Green Street, an industrial stretch that’s no stranger to rooftop performances — a neighboring building has frequently hosted contemporary dance under the stars.

In keeping with the inspiration, the play begins in modern day at a booze-fueled rooftop party populated by twentysomething jokesters and status seekers, which then transforms into the world of Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, who attempts to restore his daughter, Miranda, to power through illusion and magic.

In setting the scene, Cook uses few props, beyond beer bottles and lawn chairs, and keeps the lighting at a minimum, instead letting the untraditional space do the work.

“I wanted to capture what’s naturally evocative about being up there,” said Cook. “I don’t think anyone has been to a performance of ‘The Tempest’ quite like this before.”

“The Tempest” at The Roof (242 Green St. between McGuinness Boulevard and Provost Street in Greenpoint, no phone), Aug. 19-Sept. 5 at 8 pm. Tickets $10. For info, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/191895.

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