After the blistering heat of the long weekend, the last thing on most Londoners’ minds is winter. So why did Western’s Summer Shakespeare choose The Winter’s Tale for its 32nd production, opening Tuesday?
“We’re hoping when people hear the word winter in the title they might feel a little cooled down,” said director Jo Devereux, an English professor at Western University.
The play, written by Shakespeare around 1610, actually doesn’t have much to do with winter, according to Devereux.
“The one line that references winter in the play is ‘a sad tale’s best for winter’,’” Devereux said. “It starts off sad and tragic, but there’s a happy ending. Its about life coming back in the midst of winter, all the joy that is summer.”
The play will be performed outdoors July 3-7 in the courtyard of University College.
Western’s Summer Shakespeare began in 1981 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is now a cherished Western tradition that takes Shakespeare’s adage “all the world’s a stage” quite literally, using the university campus as inspiration and backdrop.
“The outdoor staging gives a feeling of the original productions of Shakespeare’s plays, most of which were first performed in outdoor theatres like The Globe,” Devereux said. “We can take advantage of the beautiful backdrop of the courtyard and the gothic style of University College for our sets.”
There are some cons to performing a play outdoors in July, but the show must go on, despite rain or mosquitoes. If it rains, the play is moved indoors to Conron Hall. Otherwise, “we do provide bug repellant for audience members to use if they like,” Devereux added, smiling.
The 23-member cast of The Winter’s Tale is one of the largest in the history of Western’s Summer Shakespeare. It includes both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as community members.
Joel Szaefer, a master’s student, plays King Leontes, a jealous, suspicious husband who accuses his wife Hermione, played by Kaitlyn Rietdyk, of adultery. It is Szaefer’s first time being a part of the summer production, after acting and assistant directing the English Department’s fall shows.
“The talent in this cast is absolutely immense,” he said. “We have a great director, a great stage manager, we even have fight choreography. A lot of work has gone into it, but I think it has definitely paid off.”
The only thing troubling Szaefer at their first dress rehearsal is his tendency to be typecast.
“I’m not as mean in person as I am on stage,” he laughed. “I often get cast in these villainous roles but please, feel free to say hi to me.”
The Winter’s Tale plays nightly at 7:30 July 3-7 in the UC Courtyard and runs three hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults.