The Winter's Tale

Performance history

The earliest recorded performance of the play was recorded by Simon Forman, the Elizabethan "figure caster" or astrologer, who noted in his journal on 11 May 1611 that he saw The Winter's Tale at the Globe playhouse. The play was then performed in front of King James at Court on 5 November 1611. The play was also acted at Whitehall during the festivities preceding Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on 14 February 1613. Later Court performances occurred on 7 April 1618, 18 January 1623, and 16 January 1634.[27]

The Winter's Tale was not revived during the Restoration, unlike many other Shakespearean plays. It was performed in 1741 at Goodman's Fields Theatre and in 1742 at Covent Garden. Adaptations, titled The Sheep-Shearing and Florizal and Perdita, were acted at Covent Garden in 1754 and at Drury Lane in 1756.[28]

One of the best remembered modern productions was staged by Peter Brook in London in 1951 and starred John Gielgud as Leontes. Other notable stagings featured John Philip Kemble in 1811, Samuel Phelps in 1845, and Charles Kean in an 1856 production that was famous for its elaborate sets and costumes. Johnston Forbes-Robertson played Leontes memorably in 1887, and Herbert Beerbohm Tree took on the role in 1906. The longest-running Broadway production[29] starred Henry Daniell and Jessie Royce Landis and ran for 39 performances in 1946. In 1980, David Jones, a former Associate Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company chose to launch his new theatre company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with The Winter's Tale starring Brian Murray supported by Jones' new company at BAM[30] In 1983, the Riverside Shakespeare Company mounted a production based on the First Folio text at The Shakespeare Center in Manhattan. In 1993 Adrian Noble won a Globe Award for Best Director for his Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation, which then was successfully brought to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1994.[31]

In 2009, four separate productions were staged:

  • Sam Mendes inaugurated his transatlantic "Bridge Project" directing The Winter's Tale with a cast featuring Simon Russell Beale (Leontes), Rebecca Hall (Hermione), Ethan Hawke (Autolycus), Sinéad Cusack (Paulina), and Morven Christie (Perdita).
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company[32]
  • Theatre Delicatessen[33] also staged productions of The Winter's Tale in 2009. The play is in the repertory of the Stratford Festival of Canada and was seen at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Central Park, in 2010.
  • The Hudson Shakespeare Company of New Jersey presented a production as part of their annual Shakespeare in the Parks series. The action was set in central Europe during the early 1900s era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but with a decidedly diverse cast. African American actors Tony White played Leontes, Deirdre Ann Johnson played Hermione, and Monica Jones in a dual role of Mammilus and Perdita. Also, rounding out the diverse cast was Angela Liao as Paulina.[34]

In 2013 the RSC staged a new production directed by Lucy Bailey, starring Jo Stone-Fewings as Leontes and Tara Fitzgerald as Hermione.[35] This production premiered on January 24 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 24 January 2013.[35]


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