The Winter's Tale - December 2017, directed by William Wolfgang

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The Winter’s Tale took audiences on a journey from the icy depths of winter into the beautiful, exciting rebirth of spring.  Written in the twilight of Shakespeare's illustrious career,  this romantic masterwork blends the genres of tragedy, comedy, and the early beginnings musical theatre in a way completely innovative to the Elizabethan stage.  Boundaries between art, age, love, and redemption are blurred creating a truly profound and unique theatre experience.

Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has been visiting the kingdom of Sicily, ruled by his childhood best friend Leontes, for nearly nine months. As he prepares to return at last to his own kingdom, a falling out between the two regents endangers the lives of Polixenes himself, Leontes' Queen, Hermione, and her soon-to-be-born infant. The jealousy and wrath of a King still gripped by the weaknesses of youth threaten to destabilize all of Sicily as Hermione seeks to save her child, even if it means her own death.

DIRECTOR'S NOTES - THE WINTER'S TALE

A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one of sprites and goblins.
— Mamillius, Act II Scene 1

As the play opens, King Polixenes has a nostalgic discussion of his youth, fondly remembering his time growing up with his best friend, King Leontes.  He says, “And to be boy eternal,” wishing, as countless individuals have since the dawn of time, to be young forever.  However, the tale these characters tell are a major part of a story that doesn’t allow time to stop, in fact it keeps moving, and at a very fast rate.

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Time is represented in our production as the “Boy Eternal” referenced by Polixenes above, and serves as the chorus or narrator of the production, guiding us through this Shakespearean tale.  However, the real storyteller existing within the confines of the play is the young prince, Mamillius, played by Brody Verlin. It is easy to argue that the tale (quoted above) he tells his mother the queen is the very story of which they are currently playing a part.  

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When asked to tell his mother a tale, Mamillius replies “Merry or sad shall’t be?”  Clearly, Mamillius chooses both “merry” and “sad,” and “one of sprites and goblins.”  For a play that is hard to summarize and put into a few words, Mamillius does a fine job.  The Winter’s Tale is a story that can be intensely sad, and yet equally merry.  It is occupied by characters who appear to be goblins, but then transform through time into one of the many sprites that have surrounded them.  

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The Winter’s Tale is representative of Shakespeare’s writing late in his career.  Throughout his late Romances (others include Cymbeline and The Tempest to name a few), he focused on themes resonating with him at the time in his life: redemption, forgiveness, reunification, loss, aging, love, death, and rebirth.  As this play begins you will believe you are experiencing the world of Hamlet or Macbeth, because it is dark and tragic, but as the play progresses the color changes.  Shakespeare begins to paint a different picture.  Not a masterpiece of cold and dark winter, but one of the verdant rebirth of spring.  

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Regardless of interpretation, it is clear that Mamillius achieves Polixenes’ musing of becoming “Boy Eternal.”  The rest of the characters in this play are afforded the opportunity to age, and for one, in the most magical of ways.  Time may not heal all wounds, but it does afford us the opportunity to forgive, and to be forgiven.

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The OrangeMite Shakespeare Company is pleased to present its 22nd work by Shakespeare. This production marks the first time the organization will be performing at DreamWrights Center for Community Arts, and we could not be more thrilled to share our work with new audiences.  Thank you for being a part of our merry-sad tale of sprites and goblins: William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

William Wolfgang, Director