Thanks to renowned painter and Pussy Riot super-fan Masami Teraoka, a troupe of Russian-led thespians spent the past week transforming the Art School into a stage for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Intrigued? Director Viktoria Naraxsa hopes so—and hopes that you will come to the immersive Tempest performance that takes place throughout the Art School’s classrooms and galleries March 17, 7-9pm. The performance is free—just show up and follow the action. (Pictured above: Viktoria Naraxsa and Masami Teraoka.)

Not only has the multitalented Naraxsa done choreography for Pussy Riot (the reason Teraoka contacted her), she also has experience directing traditional Russian theater and lecturing on Japanese butoh. For her Honolulu debut, she has developed a multilayered rendition of Shakespeare’s island-based tragedy that envisions the Art School as the home of protagonist Prospero, and infuses the script with a few references to Hawaiian history. You’ll have to come to the show to find out what those are.

Museumgoers who saw Masami Teraoka’s 2015 exhibition Feast of Fools know of the artist’s fascination with Pussy Riot, the Russian activist band that he painted into vibrant triptychs alongside Vladimir Putin in a tutu and sullied orthodox clergy.

Excerpt from 'Pussy Riot / Swan Lake,' 2015. Oil on panel in gold leaf frame. Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery.

Detail from ‘Pussy Riot / Swan Lake,’ 2015. Oil on panel in gold leaf frame. Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery.

“I wanted to contact the Pussy Riot team, but I never had good luck reaching the two members (Nadya and Masha) that I had depicted in my painting,” Teraoka explains. “Eventually, I found out that Viktoria Naraxsa had a strong connection with Pussy Riot, because she has choreographed one of the performances, called Chaika, and I really enjoyed it, so I said, I’ve got to get in touch with Viktoria. With luck, through Facebook, we got connected.”

Following the Art School performance, and the other events Naraxsa and her team have scheduled, Teraoka will unveil a new series of Pussy Riot-themed paintings at KCC’s Koa Art Gallery, opening August 26.

Speaking through her set and costume designer, Masha Kechaeva, Naraxsa explained how surprised she was to get Teraoka’s invitation, which she received while she was with Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova in New York. Although Tolokonnikova had to decline due to scheduling issues, Naraxsa decided to go ahead. It quickly became a process of “trying to connect so many different, absolutely strange things together—me, a Russian director; Masami, an artist who lives in Hawai‘i and works with his perception of Pussy Riot from Hawai‘i; and then altogether working on Shakespeare,” she says.

The performance team during a rehearsal.

The performance team during a rehearsal.

Teraoka and Naraxsa quickly forged a warm bond, and both feel that the performance is important in the current moment. “For me this is very important because there are no borders,” Naraxsa says. “This mix gives us a feeling that borders don’t actually exist.”

“I feel like we are coming from two different cultures,” Teraoka adds. “I feel Viktoria’s team and vision is something that is strong enough to transcend the current political mess. I am trying to explore creativity and freedom of expression. I think we are connected underneath that.”

Note: Viewer discretion advised, some scenes in this performance contains nudity.

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Tempest: March 17, 7-9pm. Performance is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations necessary.