OAK BROOK – “The Winter’s Tale” promises a summer’s enchantment when Shakespeare Under the Stars returns for a 19th season at First Folio Theatre of Oak Brook.
The bard’s lesser-known play will enjoy a streamlined adaptation, said Artistic Director Alison Vesely of Clarendon Hills. Vesely is part of the family team behind First Folio, which she and her husband, Executive Director David Rice, co-founded.
Helping her direct the show is their daughter, Hayley, who adapted the script, and first suggested the troupe produce “The Winter’s Tale” years ago.
“If you can cut it down to a reasonable length and reasonable cast size,” Vesely said and recalled as being challenging. “Hayley eliminated some of the unfunny Elizabethan joking in it, and cut it down to a length good for outdoor theater, and to 12 cast members. She’s got a terrific eye.”
The story is about King Leontes, whose jealousy costs him his wife and best friend, and drives his daughter into exile. Vesely thinks the show’s relative rarity will add appeal for the audience.
“It is such an interesting play,” she said. “It’s quite the tragedy in act one and very much a comedy with everything working out wonderfully [with] light-hearted characters in act two. It’s kind of the flip of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”
The plot does pose hurdles, Vesely said.
“Leontes is probably one of the most difficult roles for an actor,” she said. “His jealousy comes out of seemingly nowhere. For an actor to make sense of that, and to make this character forgivable at the end, you have to walk a fine line and make it sympathetic enough.
“We have one of our master actors, Kevin McKillip – he’s doing a marvelous job,” she said of the role’s performer, who has garnered multiple Jeff Award nominations for his work at First Folio.
The Mayslake grounds open 90 minutes before showtime, and people may bring picnics along with chairs and blankets for seating, or may rent chairs and blankets on the grounds. Vesely recommends preordering boxed suppers provided for the show by Standard Market. There’s ample time for picnicking, and the concession area offers water, soft drinks, coffee, prepackaged cookies, chips and candy bars.
Vesely said audience members have provided dinners as simple as a bucket of chicken to adorning a small table with candelabra, linen and silverware. She adds that children are welcome, and parents easily can walk babies out if they become fussy.
Adding a fun note to the show for actor wannabes is the inclusion of a short, nonspeaking role that First Folio supporters bid upon at auction. Among the victors for this production is John Bauer of Hinsdale, vice president of the troupe’s board of trustees, who describes how he initially became involved.
“We went to the first Shakespeare Under the Stars, and really liked it – and went year after year,” said Bauer, who eventually ended up joining friends on the board.
Bauer, who will portray a shepherd at a sheepherding festival in the July 18 performance, calls First Folio unique. The theater is set against the historic Mayslake mansion amid idyllic scenery.
“It’s exciting we have this truly professional quality theater,” he said. “It’s so easy to get to, [and] offers a Ravinia experience at a fraction of the cost and time. It’s one of the things I look forward to as part of summer … along with fireflies and long nights.”
Looking ahead, Vesely previews the 20th season of audience favorites, which will open this fall with a revival of Rice’s acclaimed “Madness of Edgar Allan Poe,” followed by the comedy “Jeeves at Sea”; a reworked one-man show with magic and music, David Kovac’s “Fooling Buddha”; and next summer’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
If you go
n WHAT: “The Winter’s Tale”
n WHERE: Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook
n WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, now to Aug. 9
n COST: $29 to $39 starting July 11; $4 less for students and seniors; $10 for ages 13 and younger with adult
n INFO: 630-986-8067,
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