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5 things to know about ‘The Winter’s Tale’

Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off its 41st season with a return to its roots: “The Winter’s Tale,” the very first play produced by the company, in 1976. This retelling is directed by company founder and artistic director Saul Elkin, and stars Matt Witten, Patrick Moltane, Jenn Stafford and Lisa Vitrano. It is a romantic tale known for its mix of comedy, sadness and escapism. “The Winter’s Tale” runs through July 17 on Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, behind the Rose Garden, and is free. Here are a few interesting facts about the play.

• “The Winter’s Tale” is based on Robert Greene’s 1588 romantic prose, “Pandosto.” Shakespeare changed the fates and names of its leading characters – minor details, right? – but retained most other major plot points.

• It is often referred to as one of Shakespeare’s “Problem Plays,” due to its conflicting classifications of genre: Some consider it a drama due to its heavy first three acts; its final two acts are considerably lighter and more romantic; Shakespeare had published it as a comedy. Jury’s still out on this one.

• The play is also known as a “pastoral romance,” which casts its characters in an idyllic, simple state, optimistic for more innocent times.

• It is unknown when exactly Shakespeare wrote the play, which was ultimately published in 1632. It is believed to have been written between 1610 and 1611, since there is record of a performance having taken place on May 15, 1611.

• “The Winter’s Tale” includes Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

– Ben Siegel