BWW Interview: William Wolfgang of A WINTER'S TALE at Orangemite Shakespeare Company
Laughter is the first sound to meet the ears as one happens upon an Orangemite Shakespeare Company rehearsal. Although hard at work, the cast is openly enjoying themselves as they prepare for their upcoming production of William Shakespeare's A WINTER'S TALE. They are a mixed group, both experienced actors and newcomers alike, and they are led by William Wolfgang, co-founder and current artistic director of Orangemite Shakespeare Company. He is at the helm of this production, and is often laughing along with the cast when a line is flubbed, a cue is missed, or a general sense of tomfoolery takes the reigns. With a show as unique as A WINTER'S TALE, fun is practically guaranteed. This season, Wolfgang and Orangemite Shakespeare Company hope to bring the merriment to York County in a way they haven't before.
"This is our first production that we're going to be taking on the road, if you will. This is our mini touring production," Wolfgang says, excitement all but evident in his voice. "We're trying to get out to different venues; we're trying to get out to new audiences and really make the York County community aware of our existence."
Until now, Orangemite Shakespeare Company has existed largely outside of the spotlight, perhaps a result of the location of their performance space. This theatre company is unconventional in many senses of the word: their goal is to perform each and every one of William Shakespeare's plays, and they operate primarily within the confines of the Dover, PA countryside. More specifically, the shows are typically performed in a restored sixteenth-century barn, giving the company their trademark of "Shakespeare in the Barn." While this setting is unarguably unique, it places Orangemite in a position of relative obscurity. This is an issue that Wolfgang aims to remedy with A WINTER'S TALE. The show was originally scheduled to play Dover Area High School only, but will now also grace the new performance space at the recently renovated Dreamwrights Center for Community Arts. This, Wolfgang hopes, will allow for Orangemite Shakespeare Company to make their mark on York County, and establish themselves as a fixture of the community. A WINTER'S TALE, he insists, is the perfect show with which to make their Dreamwrights debut.
"It's really Shakespeare's first foray into what would become musical theatre," Wolfgang elaborates. "There's singing, there's dancing in the second half...The first half is intensely tragic, and the next thing you know, it's a comedy musical...it's like a classic tale with a Shakespearian twist."
A WINTER'S TALE tells the story of a jealous king, who feels threatened by the prospect of a cheating wife who in reality has done no wrong. In a fit of rage, he destroys his family and abandons his infant daughter in the wilderness. She survives, and grows into a young woman unaware of her true identity. The lost princess then meets a prince with whom she falls in love, and they must overcome many obstacles in order to stay together. Wolfgang refers to A WINTER'S TALE as "a masterpiece that doesn't get enough attention," and hopes to expose audiences to a Shakespeare that is much different from the one they know.
"This is one of the last plays [William Shakespeare] has ever written. So he's at the top of his game, the height of his art, and it's so fun to put together because you have your actors who have the chops for the tragedy...and then you have your actors who like to fool around," Wolfgang says with a fond laugh, gesturing to the cast members outside the door. "It's a really cool and unique experience."
Orangemite Shakespeare Company is one dedicated to bringing The Bard's stories to life, and this has attracted many an actor to the Dover countryside. A WINTER'S TALE features many of Orangemite's veteran company members while also introducing many new faces, some of whom are first-timers to the stage. Additionally, the show serves as the groups' return to music, which has not been a prominent aspect of their recent seasons. However, this show features many songs in the second act, and actors have been hard at work learning several dances as well.
"This is not your typical musical theatre crowd...[but] we're adding a lot more dance in, which really rounds out the experience," says Wolfgang. "We're just trying to keep [Shakespeare's play] as he intended, and he had a lot of dance in it, so there's no reason to shy away. We embrace it."
In addition to the musical theatre elements of the show, a new performance space provides a sense of invigoration to the Orangemite crew as they prepare for a different venue and a different audience.
"I think we're all very excited to do [the show.] When we leave the barn, we're like vagabonds, we just drift around. So we're excited to try something new and see how it turns out for us," Wolfgang expresses the sentiment of the group at large. "This is our first step into York, but it's only our first step."
The future of Orangemite Shakespeare Company is bright; the troupe plans to take next season's production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING on the road as well, and Wolfgang reveals that the group plans to make the rounds in York County to establish a new presence to the already successful theatre scene. However, they are currently putting all of their energy into making A WINTER'S TALE a show to remember.
"With WINTER'S TALE, we're getting to look at a genre and a type of play that was formational, it was the root of so much that came after it. I think that showing the origins of what we now know as musical theatre is very important," Wolfgang explains. "Not only that, but exposing the community to plays that they don't get to normally see."
Orangemite Shakespeare Company is bringing to life a show that has longed to see the light of day, and in doing so are moving themselves out of The Shadows as well. With their first venture into the York County community, Wolfgang and Orangemite Shakespeare Company hope to not only make their mark on a new set of audience members, but also put on a show that aims to entertain and delight. If the audience has just as much fun as the cast members themselves are having, A WINTER'S TALE is sure to be hit, and Orangemite Shakespreare Company will soon find themselves a staple of the York County theatre community.
A WINTER'S TALE will be presented first on Friday, December 8 at 6:30pm and Saturday at 2:30pm and 6:30pm on the Dover Area High School Stage. Then, the show will move to Dreamwrights Center for Community Arts on Thursday, December 14 and Friday, December 15 at 8:00pm. Visit www.orangemite.org for more information or to purchase tickets.