by Katherine Guest–
Tempest Productions, formed nearly 20 years ago, was the brainchild of actress Jo Wadsworth, actor/director Chuck Caudill and director Cynthia Mazzant—all Hudson County residents. The artists wanted to provide an outlet in the community for young people and adults alike to experience the classics—Shakespeare, Chekov, Miller—but with a twist. “We wanted to expose the universal themes in these plays for a modern audience,” said Wadsworth. Not only that, but they wanted their theater company to prioritize the process of theater, exploring the script, characters and storytelling, rather than simply the end result.
It is this process that speaks to their name—Tempest Productions. Though seemingly a nod to the famous Shakespeare play, it actually is a riff off of the idiom, “tempest in a teapot.” “We wanted to stir things up and see how they settle,” said Wadsworth. Though headquartered in Bayonne, the company has indeed been stirring things up in various schools and performance spaces across Hudson County, as they reimagine these classics, while also providing youth with a powerful outlet to dive into the world of theater themselves.
Tempest provides community-based workshops, residencies and events for youth throughout Hudson County. It was really important for Wadsworth and her colleagues to engage young people. “Youth are the future for theater,” says Wadsworth. One of Tempest’s most popular programs for youth is their StoryBook Theater Series. Usually hosted outside during the Spring and Summer months, Tempest Productions presents popular storybook tales and folklore, encouraging youth and family participation as they sing and dance through these magical stories.
“It’s been amazing to host StoryBook Theater,” says Wadsworth, “to keep seeing kids and their families come back. We really get to see some of them grow up.” Family and community engagement is central to Tempest, and is why they strive to be inclusive and affordable. “If it’s not affordable, it’s useless,” said Wadsworth.
Wadsworth and her company are excited to see their company grow, even after all these years, and are hopeful as they see a golden age of the arts emerging in Bayonne.
You can catch StoryBook Theater at the Bridge Arts Festival on September 7th for a 1:30pm performance.