By Christopher Hernandez
A sad tale may be the best for winter, but does such a tale befit the fall?
Every three years, Palm Beach Atlantic University’s theater department chooses a Shakespearean play to produce. This year, that play is “The Winter’s Tale,” which is partially set in the imaginary countries of Sicilia and Bohemia.
According to Bruce Coville, author of the retelling of the play, “There is a disease that can twist men’s hearts and make them mad, and the name of that disease is jealousy.”
The “disease” manifests itself in the character of King Leontes, whose jealous actions set the stage for the various plot points of the play.
Drawing inspiration from Coville’s book, PBA’s version centers around a grandfather telling the story of “The Winter’s Tale” to his grandson. The story is then played out for the audience with the grandfather and grandson taking on roles in the tale.
“The Winter’s Tale” becomes a game of imagination that invites the audience into the world of Shakespeare in an original way that maintains the play’s literary integrity.
“Some people might say it is a bit of a mix of the light and the dark, but I think that’s the thing that makes it fascinating,” Director Robert Homer-Drummond said. “It covers the heights and depths of human experience.”
To sophomore Pierre Tannous who plays Leontes, the blend of tragedy and comedy makes the play more realistic and relatable since tragedy and comedy are usually such polarities with no middle ground.
“The Winter’s Tale” illustrates the intermingling of both.
The importance of performing “The Winter’s Tale” for the actors in the production is essential to learn their craft.
According to Homer-Drummond, it is imperative for students to be exposed not only to the literature of Shakespeare, but also to have the opportunity to perform Shakespeare at some point during their four years in the Theatre Department.
“Many people have said Shakespeare is the Olympics for actors, not easy stuff to do,” Homer-Drummond said.
Junior Bridget Williams said that playing the character Paulina is like riding a rollercoaster of moods. The role forced her to realize her own weaknesses, Williams said.
For senior Christy Lawler, who plays Hermoine, taking on Shakespeare is different from anything she has done. She believes that the language of Shakespeare is its driving force because it carries the emotion of the piece; the language carries the character.
“I’ve gained a greater sense of peace and trust,” Lawler said. “I have gained a calmness, inner steadiness and peace.”
Stepping up to the “Shakespearean Olympics” is just one challenge facing the cast, for there is the added stress of the Kravis Center.
For the first time, the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse will host a PBA production. For the director, the excitement stems from having a great stage on which to play. The actors feel a sense of honor and accomplishment.
“I am humbled and privileged,” Lawler said. “So many actors have used that space to create.”
For senior Kyle Schnack being able to play Polixenes at the Kravis is a sweet feeling.
“It looks good on resumes,” he said. “It’s also nice to be in a space that feels like a theater.”
Above the imagination and wonder of the Kravis center, Homer-Drummond wants the audience to leave the production having experienced Shakespeare for more than its face value.
“‘The Winter’s Tale’ is a redemptive story but it is not easy redemption. It is not cheap grace,” he said. “We see that the possibility for healing and for forgiveness exists but that somebody usually pays the price for that forgiveness.”
Homer-Drummond added that Shakespeare’s language and characterization have the power to get this message across, taking his “audience on a journey that, like the works of the great Greek playwrights, is cathartic.”