Arts & Culture

The story's about two kings but the women hold the power in this outdoors Shakespeare offering

Animal Fire Theatre does a first reading of "The Winter's Tale" at Priest Point Park in Olympia. They describe the Shakespearean play as a grim psychological drama and a pastoral comedy.
Animal Fire Theatre does a first reading of "The Winter's Tale" at Priest Point Park in Olympia. They describe the Shakespearean play as a grim psychological drama and a pastoral comedy. Courtesy: Animal Fire Theatre

Every summer (with rare exceptions) Animal Fire Theatre does Shakespeare outdoors, and year after year their productions are outstanding.

Animal Fire describes this summer’s offering, “The Winter’s Tale,” as a grim psychological drama and a pastoral comedy. The story of two kings raised as brothers in different kingdoms — Leontes of Sicilia and Polixenes of the mythical kingdom of Bohemia — has been both praised and criticized for switching styles from drama to comedy. So let viewers choose.

“We chose ‘The Winter's Tale’ mainly due to today's political climate, and how women are being treated in America," said director Brian Hatcher. "The play centers on false accusations, which leads to the near destruction of a king, and his kingdom.

"The women are some of the most powerful female characters in the Bard's cannon. All of them are wise, strong, passionate, clever and grounded in who they are. Men fall prey to their own weakness, ego, loyalty to a crown and are led by misjudgment. In the end, it is the women who pull this story together, teach us forgiveness and ultimately teach us true redemption."

“Within this play," Hatcher said, "there is also a beautiful undertone of magic and mystery. The world as we know it becomes transformed by the mystic. Subtle as it may seem, we are all changed by universal time. There is such an element of something larger than humankind moving us, guiding us to find ourselves.”

Drew Doyle plays Leontes.

“Driven by irrationality and mistrust, he navigates his world with one of humankind’s more unfortunate and too relatable traits, jealousy,” Doyle said. “Unlike ‘Othello,’ in which you have Iago, no villain exists in this play but Leontes himself. He is his own worst enemy. The disease of the green-eyed monster infects his thoughts, actions and even the manner of his speech. He is the car wreck you can’t help but look at as you drive by.”

Doyle’s wife, Paige, plays Leontes’ wife, Hermione.

“I see Hermione as the essence of maternal love, patience, forbearance in the face of unbearable tragedy, and forgiveness," she said. "Engaging in the rehearsal stage of this project with our newborn daughter literally in my arms has helped me establish a deep connection with Hermione as I walk her path.

"My emotional engagement with what she endures as a wife and mother has been powerful and profound, and I am awed by her strength and resilience. What she endures would break me totally. She is an inspiring example of womanhood at its most elegant and enduring.”

King Polixenes is played by Ryan Holmberg.

“He is a playboy king, a lover of wine, women and costumed revelry,” Holmberg said. “This makes him a somewhat absent father and frequently leads to troublesome situations, but he does mean well and always attempts to set things right. Eventually.”

Asked about the unique challenges of performing outdoors, Holmberg said, “Being outdoors, performing the plays I love with fellow actors that care about the craft as much as I do has been a most welcome discovery. My theater and vocal training was always geared toward performing outdoor Shakespeare, the ability to be heard at the farthest reaches of the audience and understood clearly, both in diction and intent, so that the material is accessible to everyone attending.”

When Leontes suspects his wife of infidelity and throws her in prison, her friend Paulina (Rachel Fitzgerald) pleads for her release.

“She is the moral compass of the play,” said Fitzgerald, “the lady who stands for what's right and just and will not be silenced just because she's a woman. What a beautifully complex character.”

The play will take place just behind the restroom hut next to the children’s playground. There will be signs pointing the way.

Check Alec’s blog at for reviews of other area theatrical productions.

The Winter’s Tale

When: 7 p.m. July 13-Aug. 5

Where: Priest Point Park, Olympia

Tickets: Free

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