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5 Things To Know About 'The Winter's Tale'

Julie Denesha

This summer, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents the tragicomedy, The Winter's Tale, in Southmoreland Park in Kansas City, Mo.

It marks the first time the 22-year-old festival has staged the play, which explores the nature of jealousy.

Here's a quick summary: Leontes, the King of Sicily (played by Bruce Roach), suspects that his wife, Hermione (Cinnamon Schultz) has been unfaithful. She's pregnant and Leontes accuses her of having an affair with his childhood friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia (John Rensenhouse).

Leontes's jealousy is unfounded, but it leads to the destruction of friendship and family. "We all know that jealousy oozes in at the cracks, in a heartbeat, in a thunderbolt," executive artistic director Sidonie Garrett said to the cast and crew before their first table read at the end of May.

The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's later plays; it's not as well known as some of his other works, such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet.

Garrett shared five tips for navigating the play:

  1. Break it down to the essentials
    "It's three acts of tragedy, two acts of comedy, and a miracle at the end. So when you think of it in that way, it seems bite-sized."
  2. Jealousy happens in a flash
    "Jealousy flashes, jealousy happens, jealousy just is. And there needs to be no real rhyme nor reason for it. We're going to provide a little bit of reason to help him (Leontes) along and the audience along."
  3. Grandeur of a court fades
    "It's a friendly court when we start and it quickly devolves. Everyone who's involved with this person, this king, has to be sort of nonplussed all the way through as to how this has happened, because it happens within his own brain ... everything is topsy-turvy in an instant, with no explanation, just his will, just his decision."
  4. The play shares elements with a fairy tale
    "We took one line of the first scene to use. I wanted to frame the piece in a way of a fairy tale, as well. 'The heavens continue their loves!,' using that as the beginning and the end of this play, in hopes that it would kind of pull the thread through and make a heart."
  5. Narrative arc goes from destruction to rebirth
    "It's kind of like life as it should be, begins as life gets distorted completely by his inability to accept truth, when everyone tries to tell him it's truth. And he refuses, and refuses, and refuses until he loses everything. And then we go to a place of joy and rebirth."

KCUR's summer series, From Page To Park, explores the unexpected struggles and conflicts in the life cycle of 'The Winter's Tale'. Key cast and crew members share professional and personal journeys to create performances that speak to a diverse audience.

Heart of America Shakespeare Festivalpresents 'The Winter's Tale,' June 17 - July 6 (no show on July 4), Southmoreland Park, Cleaver II Boulevard and Oak Street, Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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