Asha Prihar, Contributing Photographer

This weekend, Yale students will present an outdoor production of “The Winter’s Tale” –– one of Shakespeare’s late romances that unites tragedy and comedy into a single vibrant play full of disguises and improbable discoveries. 

“The Winter’s Tale” follows the story of Leontes, king of Sicilia, who accuses his pregnant wife of infidelity with his best friend Polixenes, king of Bohemia. The play unfolds from there, with Leontes’ jealousy spiraling into devastating consequences, and then makes a 16-year jump in time to explore the event’s aftermath.

It is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays that captured my imagination a while ago,” said Raquel Sequeira ’22, the play’s director. “It raises some of the biggest life questions about love, fear and hope. But it is also full of crazy, fun language, going from the most dramatic to the most fun and lighthearted mood. I just enjoy the opportunity to direct all different kinds of scenes and give actors a chance to do such a wide range.

The team casted the actors in March 2019 and initially planned to stage the show after spring break, but had to freeze production indefinitely due to the pandemic. This fall, the team resumed work and went through another round of casting cycles, which let them engage both “talented first years and veteran performers,” according to the play’s producer Charles Simonds ’22, who also plays Polixenes. 

Rehearsals began at the beginning of the school year but were disrupted due to the University’s health regulations. For example, the team had to limit the duration of its rehearsals and the number of people allowed in one space. The decision to stage the play outdoors emerged from the ambition to resurrect the feeling of unmasked, pre-pandemic theater and to welcome a larger audience, while adhering to safety guidelines.  

We are doing our best given the constraints,” Simonds said. “The main advantage of working outside is that the actors don’t have to be masked. It also helped us receive an exception to have a chorus perform at the very end, which is such a transformative moment that added so much to the beauty and meaning of the final scene.

An outdoor production also brings its own set of unique challenges, such as cold weather and the chance of rain. Yet, according to the production team, the chance for in-person work compensates for any inconveniences.

Maya Gardos ’25, who plays Paulina, expressed gratitude for the “amazing” experience of being a part of a group where everyone “has such love and care for Shakespeare, the craft and the show.” 

Joe Edwards GRD ’22, who plays Florizell, shared similar appreciation and said that “meeting people” was the most “rewarding” part of working on the production.

The team also agreed on the play’s importance and contribution to reviving in-person theater at Yale, which has been “decimated by the pandemic,” returning from a “theater-life jail” and setting up infrastructure for future outdoor productions, according to Simonds.

The result of this creative collaboration was a combination of traditional and modern theater, as the play’s producers paid homage both to pre-pandemic theater and to Shakespeare while adding novel connotations in a modern context and exploring the topics of friendship, trust and vulnerability.

“The pandemic, obviously, pushed us to reevaluate how we relate to people,” Sequeira said. “You can see that even in the very act of getting on stage and forming this type of a stressful relationship with an audience, when you have to reveal your most vulnerable side. Still, the play shows that you can choose to trust in the power of a relationship rather than taking the path of skepticism and doubt and retreating into yourself.”

The performances will take place in the Timothy Dwight College courtyard on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m., Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 at 7.30 p.m. The show will also be recorded and sent out to interested parties upon request.