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UPDATED: The Winter's Tale: A Story of Kingly Privilege and Huge Mistakes

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Update: Actor David Wald had to withdraw from the production due to family considerations. Director Phillip Lehl will take over the King Leontes role and the production schedule will be pushed back a week to Thursday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. The show will still close on May 16.

A king misunderstands a meeting between his pregnant wife and his longtime friend and fellow king. He thinks she has been unfaithful; she hasn't.

"And because he is a king, he acts upon it with finality,"said actor David Wald who plays King Leontes in The Winter's Tale, one of the most unusual of Shakespeare's works in that it is a tragedy for three acts, a comedy in the fourth (at a sheep shearing party no less) and then a melding together of what went before in the fifth act. Oh and there's a 16-year gap somewhere in the middle of all this.

Stark Naked Theatre Company's co-founder and director Philip Lehl will direct. "I've been teaching Shakespeare for the last five to ten years. I thought it was high time that I directed one of his plays. I've always thought The Winter's Tale was a special play of his," Lehl said.

Asked how he made his selection of eight actors who will play 25-30 characters, Lehl said: "First and foremost people who could speak Shakespeare's verse the way it needs to be spoken and then people who can act the way Stark Naked wants people to act which is in a natural, truthful style."

Courtney Lomeo plays five different characters but her main one is Paulina. "Paulina is the gentle woman to the Queen Hermione. She can stand up to the King and tell him when he's wrong when everyone else is kissing his royal behind," Lomeo said.

Matt Lents is both Prince Florizel and the clown. "In the second part of the play Florizel is the romantic love interest. He's a very easy character to like but he's sort of making the same mistakes Leontes is. Faced with emotions versus rationality, both are choosing emotions," Lents said. "The clown character, I think he's sort of an innocent, wide eyed and unfiltered but at the same time he's willing to put himself in danger so he's a good guy."

Although The Winter's Tale is not much-performed, it contains one of the most repeated stage directions Shakespeare ever put in a play: "Exit, pursued by a bear." Asked how they were going to carry off that part, Lehl, in the early rehearsal phase when we talked, laughed, adding: "We're still working on it."

The Winter's Tale has a preview performance May 1, opens May 2 8 and runs through May 16. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Monday, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street, For information call 832-866-6514 or visit starknakedtheatre.com. $10 Students, $17 Seniors and $20 General.

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