Every year, the Department of Musical Theatre puts on a studio production of a play. In comparison to the upscale musical performances that come before and after this one in the department’s season, this show is a refreshing and immensely impressive change of pace that requires collaboration among students and faculty across all the theatre departments.
This Thursday, the musical theatre department will be presenting Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.” Professor Malcolm Tulip will be directing, as he does each year, alongside two student assistant directors: Senior BFA Acting Major Zoey Bond and Sophomore BFA Directing Major Marty McGuire.
“The Winter’s Tale” tells the intrigue-filled story of King Leontes of Sicily on a quest for redemption. As one of Shakespeare’s later plays, published in 1623, the play is often considered one of the author’s tragicomedies or late romances. Despite a happy ending (generally speaking), death and the fantastically haunting elements situate the play evenly between his more classical, delineated comedies and tragedies.
“The first three acts feel like a completely different play, so the challenge lies in uniting the tragedy/comedy, and making it all exist in the same world,” Bond said.
Although the play is one of Shakespeare’s least popular, it is one of Bond’s favorites.
“Each character is strong, layered, and has a nice arc, providing a wonderful treat and challenge for actors — especially in an educational setting,” Bond said, “in some ways it is a better, re-developed version of Othello.”
However, Marty McGuire, the other assistant director, said that the major theme of the play is transformation.
“It’s ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ so there is the transformation of seasons happening, there’s the transformation of time, and most importantly, the transformation of people,” McGuire explained. “At the center of the play is King Leontes, who makes some bad decisions, and as a result he has to transform from that in order to be forgiven or in this case also move on with his life.”
Although the play and the entire theatre season was set about a year ago, there is an unavoidable and eerie echo of the show and our current political climate –– the fact that “The Winter’s Tale” follows the story of a rash dictator is an accidental irony that the production team has not neglected to emphasize.
“The character of Leontes is a dictator of sorts who operates on the basis of his emotions, and makes very rash decisions that solely benefit him and how he appears to other people, without regards to how that might affect them,” McGuire said. “So, we have changed a couple things in order to draw the allusion a bit more strongly towards a certain political character in our country right now.”
With that being said, and apart from switching the genders of some characters, not much will change from this production to the original. This is mainly a result of the low budget of the production.
“The cool thing about having no budget is that you don’t have the money to really go time and place, so the time and place becomes androgynous and nonspecific,” McGuire said, “It’s this cool design mismatch of just what we had to create a very universal play with themes that are true to all times and places.”
What’s best about these productions each year though, is not due to the mastery of Shakespeare, but to the students themselves who are given the freedom to take the creative lead.
“It’s the perfect conglomeration of teamwork in the arts,” McGuire said. “I think that moving forward, as we try to create theatre that can relate to all people, of political persuasions, gender, we include all people in this process in order to allow as many voices heard as possible.”
Following the performance on Friday, there will be a post-performance discussion moderated my director Tulip, also featuring members of the cast and crew.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Article has been updated to reflect that the production involves collaboration across all departments and majors of SMTD.