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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ does Shakespeare proud at High Cliff

Critic At Large

Summit Players Theatre

Scene set in Sicilia from the Wisconsin-based Summit Players Theatre production of “The Winter’s Tale” at High Cliff State Park, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Warren Gerds)

SHERWOOD, Wis. (WFRV) – Me: “I’m here to see the play by William Shakespeare… It’s my first time in High Cliff.”

Man handling park fee and sticker for the car window, with a smile: “Shakespeare would be proud.”

Indeed.

The play: “The Winter’s Tale” from 1610 or so.

On Sunday, June 13, 2021, “The Winter’s Tale” was performed in High Cliff State Park by Summit Players Theatre.

There is “Shakespeare in Park” in many places around the world. Summit Players Theatre ups the stakes to “Shakespeare in the Parks” – 24 Wisconsin State Parks on a summer tour to Aug. 22. It’s an ambitious project.

This is the company’s sixth summer to tour. Of note, this is the first tour since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic; there still are some considerations about spacing and such with the current tour.

The concept: Skilled young actors performed condensed versions of a Shakespeare play for park patrons or visitors such as me for free (donations accepted).

“Condensed” may not be the correct word because Shakespeare packs a punch in the first place with the way he distilled words and meanings and emotions and inuendoes while hanging foible-filled humanity out to dry.

“The Winter’s Tale” is about – whew, a carload of drama, romance, tragedy and a good oracle just at the right time. I cheat and here print the troupe’s synopsis from the sign for the audience to see:

King Leontes of Sicilia has unjustly accused Queen Hermione of adultery and sentences her to prison where she gives birth to a baby girl named Perdita.

Hermione’s death is announced and Perdita is sent away to Bohemia where she is raised by shepherds.

Sixteen years later, Perdita and a prince named Florizel elope to Sicilia.

Perdita is reunited with her father, King Leontes, and to celebrate they visit a statue of Queen Hermione.

The queen’s statue comes to life, the family is reunited, and they all live happily ever after!

Some favorite quotes:

“There’s magic in thy majesty.”

“Exit, pursued by a bear.”

“Gloves as sweet as damask roses; Masks for faces and for noses”… with the player in this case flashing a COVID-19 medical mask for a sight gag.

Summit Players Theatre radiates the driving desire to share Shakespeare that simmers in so many places. The players are eager, pliable and energetic.

Performers play multiple characters. That gets tricky when the actor portraying a major character in one scene does a quick turnabout and is someone lesser in in the next. A change of cloth and shift of voice and manor don’t much alter an identity.

That situation is part of economy in the production. The set includes rolled oil cloth maps of Sicilia and Bohemia and a black fabric that serves as the sea upon which a ship (in miniature) sails with the sound of waves produced by the shaking of two partially filled plastic containers holding water. The effect is deliberately comically makeshift – as if the production is chuckling at its shortfalls.

This company is trained to deal the challenge of voices carrying outside. Everybody PROJECTS without shouting. Sunday, it helped that the performance space was set up near 20 or so trees. Wood helps acoustics, and these were big maple, oak and hickory trees.

Scene in Bohemia in “The Winter’s Tale.” (Warren Gerds)

One of the interesting bits of this production is the presentation of Bohemian shepherds. What is the dialect of Bohemian shepherds – rural, roughish, folk – that the American ear can relate to? How about a Western cowpoke or maybe a Texan? The scenes with that are meant to be comical and entertaining, and the accent helps.

The players play off of/with one another in a one-for-all-all-for-one presentation with a lot of spark.

The next performance of Summit Players Theatre’s “The Winter’s Tale” in Northeastern Wisconsin is 7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, with an educational workshop at 5:30 p.m. at Copper Culture State Park near Oconto. If you see the play on your first visit to the park, Shakespeare would be proud.

***

Creative: Playwright – William Shakespeare; adaptation and director – Maureen Kilmurry; production manager – Emily Elliot; music coordinator – Michael Nicholas; scenic designer – Carl Eiche; costume designer – Amelia Strahan; education director – Caroline Norton; tour manager – Sarah Zapiain; executive director – A.J. Magoon

Cast:

Maura Atwood – Hermione, Autolycus

Cole Conrad – Florizel, Cleomenes, Archidamus, Gentleman 2, Lord/Attendant/Guard/Jailer
Jackson Hoemann ­– Polixenes, Antigonus, Dorcas, Officer/Lord/Servant/Gentleman 1
Kaylene Howard – Time, Camillo, Paulina, Mariner, Bear, Mopsa, 3rd Gentleman
Michael Nicholas ­– Leontes, Old Shepherd
Caroline Norton – Perdita, Young Shepherd, Mamillius, Emilia, Dion

Running time: 1½ hours

Remaining performances:

+ June 18: Three Bridges Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ June 19: Copper Culture State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ June 20: Hartman Creek State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

+ June 25: Yellowstone Lake State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ June 26: Wyalusing State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ June 27: Blue Mound State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

+ July 9: Copper Falls State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 10: Pattison State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 16: Havenwoods State Forest – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 17: Kohler-Andrae State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 18: Peninsula State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

+ July 23: Lake Kegonsa State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 24: Mirror Lake State Forest – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ July 25: Roche-a-Cri State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

 + Aug. 6: Governor Knowles State Forest – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 7: Interstate State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 9: Havenwoods State Forest – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 13: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 14: Wildcat Mountain State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 15: Perrot State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

+ Aug. 20: Rib Mountain State Park – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 21: Flambeau River State Forest – workshop: 5:30 p.m. | show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 22: Lake Wissota State Park – workshop: 1 p.m. | show: 2:30 p.m.

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