All the courtyard's a stage

“I think of The Winter’s Tale as a fairy tale,” wrote Susanna Gellert, AB’99, in her director’s notes for University Theater’s (UT) Summer Shakespeare in the Court. “In this world nothing—however terrible or delightful—is a dream.”

Gellert and her design team created such whimsy through Ásta Hostetter’s (AB’04) costumes—oversized skirts, colorful fabrics, wing-like sleeves, and enormous sparkling-twine crowns—Scott Zielinski’s dramatic lighting cues, and Mark Winston’s (AB’04) melodic score, performed by a student string quartet. Last night the spectacle drew a few dozen audience members to this epic story of love, loss, and renewal.

The actors too—students, recent alumni, and children who attended the University’s Summer Drama Workshop—helped transport the audience to Shakespeare’s fanciful world. After the performance Gellert, who participated in UT as a student and now attends Yale University’s School of Drama, marveled at the actors’ enthusiasm for embedding themselves in the text and characters. And working with the young campers, she said, “put into context what the show is really about”—creating theater the entire Hyde Park community can enjoy.

Each year’s Summer Shakespeare play is the only UT mainstage production performed in Hutchinson Courtyard. Meredith Ries’s (’05) stage design made use of what Gellert called the “ambient world of the courtyard”: the actors took over the area, playing to audience risers on three sides of the elevated stage—impermanent structures funded by the Arts Planning Council and the Women’s Board—and periodically splashing through the courtyard’s fountain.

Summer Shakespeare, like the season itself, is fleeting: The Winter’s Tale continues its run this Wednesday through Saturday before disappearing as quickly as a Shakespearian tragedy’s entire family lineage.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

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August 9, 2004