Teller to direct ‘Tempest’ at ART

Teller (left) and Aaron Posner will direct Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” an ART coproduction.
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Teller (left) and Aaron Posner will direct Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” an ART coproduction.

“Tim’s Vermeer” marks Teller’s first time directing a film, but he’s got some stage experience under his belt, having directed “Play Dead” and co-directed (with Aaron Posner) “Macbeth,” both off-Broadway. Teller and Posner will reunite at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge. They’re directing the American Repertory Theater/Smith Center for the Performing Arts coproduction of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” from May 10 to June 15. It features songs by Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan, and choreography by the dance troupe Pilobolus.

“Tom and Kathleen are old friends of mine, and they’ve given us access to their entire Island [Records] catalog of music, which turns out to be fabulously appropriate to ‘The Tempest,’ ” said Teller. “So where Shakespeare had songs, we’ve used Waits/Brennan songs. That music is marvelous, and the whole style of the production is, if not exactly carnival, kind of a run-down Depression-era tent show look, that I think very nicely represents a desert island. We’ve got the Pilobolus people choreographing our Caliban, who’s actually two guys who move intertwined the entire show, like a couple of conjoined twins. There’s a whole sideshow overtone to it, and I don’t mean a cute kind of sideshow. I mean a dark kind of sideshow.

“It’s Shakespearean text, with edits, as you always do with Shakespeare,” he added. “My goal is to have it completely comprehensible to anybody at all. I always sort of imagine myself in the audience, not knowing the play, and thinking, ‘Would I understand every bit of this?’ Yup, you’re gonna understand every bit of this. And you’ll see some amazing magic in it, too. You know, Prospero’s a magician! Let’s see a little magic, shall we?”