Menlo News February 07, 2023

Middle School Drama Presents The Winter’s Tale

Shakespeare’s timeless tragicomedy of jealousy, loss, and betrayal!

Middle School drama students will bring William Shakespeare’s poetic language to life at the Spieker Center for the Arts, with their modern adaptation of The Winter’s Tale. First published in 1623, this 400-year-old story still resonates today. In fact, while the original play’s fourth act takes place 16 years later than the rest of the story, this Middle School production will take an even bolder leap forward—to now!

“The first part takes place in the 1600s, when there were strictly defined roles for women,” said Middle School Drama teacher Sarah Cloward. “It was a time of witchcraft, when women who didn’t ‘stay in their lane’ were accused of being witches. To highlight the relevance of these emotions and themes today, our interpretation leaps to the present day and includes contemporary costumes and sets after spending the first three acts in medieval Europe.”

While some of Shakespeare’s language can be difficult to learn, these students have risen to the challenge.

“I play two different characters,” said Chase ’29. “Something I find unique to both of them is that they speak so divinely, no matter who they are and what they are doing. They always speak with such grace.”

“It was really difficult to get started,” added Eilir ’27. “I thought memorizing my lines would be hard because a lot of the vocabulary includes words I have never heard before. But it’s poetic and unique, so it actually makes it easier.”

The Winter’s Tale includes one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Along with getting to the core of the emotional content of the poetic material, students are also challenged by the play to understand the motivation behind these specific stage directions and performance instructions.

“Shakespeare tells you exactly how to say all of the lines,” Cloward explained. “To speak louder or quieter, to pause, or speak fast—the direction is all written into the text. The challenge for the students is to figure out why. ‘Why is my character pausing? Maybe he’s out of breath, and he just ran, and he’s older.’ They learn that part of an actor’s job is not just delivering lines, but to figure out the why.

“Middle School students also study poetry and doing Shakespeare is like live poetry,” she added. “They might not understand every word they are speaking, but they feel the emotion. That’s the goal.”

The Middle School Drama Department presents William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale on February 10-11 at 7:00 pm in the Spieker Center for the Arts. For tickets, please visit: