Shakespeare in Clark Park Starts Tomorrow With Five Free Shows Through Sunday
To sit or to stand? That will be the question at the 10th anniversary of Shakespeare in Clark Park. Grab your checkered blankets and bottled (or boxed!) wine to attend a free showing of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy The Winter’s Tale. The story concerns Leontes and Polixenes, rulers of Sicilia and Bohemia, who are best friends until a love affair threatens their relationship and shatters the long-held bond between their families.
“It’s a play that lends itself to a feeling of fairytale and fables, which is particularly well-suited for the outdoor setting,” explains Director Kittson O’Neill. The malleable sets and talented actors will transport audiences through two different kingdoms and act out a tale of friendship ripped apart by jealousy. “Part of the fun of this show is having such a large space to play with,” O’Neill says. “We’ll have some performers walk around the entire Park and come back around to enter different scenes.”
This year, O’Neill has chosen to incorporate The Chorus of Children, a group of 30 Philadelphia-area youth who will serve as narrators of the story. “In The Winter’s Tale, it’s the younger generation that is the vehicle that redeems the mistakes of their parents,” says O’Neill. “The real witnesses and narrators and the engine of the story are the children.” The Chorus of Children will replace many of the secondary characters who had lines in Shakespeare’s original play, singing their parts rather than having them spoken.
Feminism will also play a role in this rendition of The Winter’s Tale. O’Neill has recast many of the original male characters as women, saying “In a Shakespeare play, if a roll doesn’t absolutely have to be a man then I’m always open to making it a woman.” O’Neill aims to make the play more relatable to contemporary audiences, who find it perfectly normal to see a woman playing a ruler—even in an medieval setting. Recasting male roles as female also lends itself to a unique interpretation to the overall plot. “By having women in roles that are traditionally male, it shows that jealousy is much less an indictment of men as terrible people and more just a personal tragedy about a particular character,” she explains.
The Winter’s Tale debuts July 29th and runs five nights in a row until August 2nd. All performances are free and begin at 7 p.m. in “the Bowl” of Clark Park. The rain location will be in the Mandell Theater of Drexel University. For more information, visit shakespeareinclarkpark.org.