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Stepping Up Shakespeare 

The Rogue Theatre adds dance elements to 'The Tempest'

The Rogue Theatre is tackling The Tempest, the last of Shakespeare's plays—and perhaps his most magical.

The company is also making the enchanting work his most dance-y.

"It's quite a dancerly production of the play," says Cynthia Meier, who directs.

The part of Prospero, the exiled duke who turns to magic, will be performed by John Wilson, a venerated UA professor of dance, now retired. Jenna Johnson, prima ballerina of Ballet Tucson, will play Juno, a sprite on the island where Prospero and his daughter are marooned. She'll do a dance solo in Act II. Daniel Precup, Johnson's husband and dance partner at Ballet Tucson, will choreograph.

The lyrical play is full of lovely language about the affinity between magic and art. "Our revels now are ended," Prospero intones at one point. "These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air. ...We are such stuff as dreams are made on."

With its story of island sprites and magical storms, The Tempest readily lends itself to dance.

The production is "nothing like Julie Taymor's," Meier says, referring to the 2010 film version by the acclaimed director. "The special effects will all be in our imaginations, but it should be quite lovely."

Wilson taught UA dancers for 25 years, and he's credited with composing some 98 different works. But he was an actor in his youth and young adulthood. He started tap-dancing at age 4, and was playing Shakespeare by the time he was a teen, winning a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Meier first met Wilson at the UA in the 1980s when she was a grad student in performance studies. The two have kept in touch since. Wilson, now 75, and his wife, Diane, have been regulars at the Rogue. He approached Meier about the possibility of playing King Lear, and she countered with the offer of Prospero.

"We decided we weren't quite ready to do King Lear," Meier says, "but we had been thinking of The Tempest."

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