A Winter’s Tale – Judith Dolan

The Winter’s Tale offers a landscape of weather issues, not the least of which is a violent storm that creates a transition between two worlds. Artistic Director Barry Edelstein’s design mandate was to create a contemporary version of The Winter’s Tale for his first production at San Diego’s Old Globe.

Travel between two very different courts – Sicilia and Bohemia – was key to locating the costumes in space and time. The costumes had to underscore the climate in each place.

Leontes’ Sicilian Court was an interior space of glass partitions and sterile steel anonymous in its global style: it could be in an very exclusive loft in Soho NYC or an elegant penthouse in Rome. The dark conservative costumes (for both men and women) had a timelessness reflecting the urban life style of the very rich. The costumes can be read as a reflection of the establishment’s power structure where they are protected from the elements (including weather) behind glass walls and wealth.

The move outdoors presented an opportunity to contrast the “establishment” court, bundled in coats, hats, gloves and scarves with the imprisoned Hermione in a frail, prison gown – her body exposed to the wintry elements. The simplicity of design was directed at both her vulnerability and her dignity in the wake of her husband’s violent outbursts. The orange color was the only color on the stage, a warm flame in the middle of winter outdoor landscape.

Travel was also carefully designed to show the difference in class as well as weather. Two lords are sent by Leontes to the oracle – properly clothed in elegant overcoats, This contrasted sharply with the Shipwreck scene, which begins with a sailor in heavy wool sweater, knit cap and waders who directs Antigonus to the shore. Two clowns, the Old Shepherd and his son, are functionally dressed for a very severe storm that shipwrecks a boat carrying the young princess, Perdita. Slickers, wellies, fisherman rain hats and layers of loose practical clothing underscored that the shepherd class was functionally more prepared to survive than the upper classes in their elegant coats.

The move to Bohemia was simply addressed scenically with a rough wood wall, a bare tree trunk and whimsical wooden flowers that popped from the deck.   The costumes were derived not from the usual flowery notions of Bohemian shepherdesses but from the California arid desert. It is hot, dry, arid and life requires hard work to survive. The images in the collages were derived from artists (today’s “bohemians”) in the California desert who make art out of almost nothing. Research was drawn from the music festival of Coachella Valley, where the young, in particular, celebrate through music.   The Bohemians are poor, but make use of their limited desert resources to create a festival.

This was supported through the casual practical shorts, jeans, straw hats, and sandals found in thrift shops and collaged together.

The return to the Sicilian Court is heralded by a washed out world of a dark, secret and hidden chapel. A film of ice, dampness and coldness descends as reflected in the Court V collage. The only flame is Paulina in her red velvet “cassock” as the protector of Hermione. The statue design is a blend of her identity as the daughter of a Russian emperor, and a tribute to our Mexican American community in San Diego: a Spanish Baroque Madonna. She has become an icon.

Most importantly: a new world order is established through Perdita and Florizel who have journeyed together as a committed couple from Bohemia to Sicilia. They have cast off any pretentions of either Court, dressed themselves as young couple would in global travel: in blue jeans. Although jeans were a creation of the USA, they have come to represent liberation and equality in both gender and class. Perdita and Florizel through their young hopeful vision, are dressed appropriately for whatever elements – weather or political crisis – that lie ahead. They are equals.

Given the nature of the contemporary designs, I worked mostly from collages to create the worlds. I have discovered that a couple of key collages are too large and must take them to be rescanned. I am also missing a couple of renderings that also need scanning.

If the curators decide to use this production, I would hope to submit about 3-4 additional images that support the criteria in a more full way.