When the 2011-2012 season was announced, many people were left scratching their heads at the mention of Cymbeline.
“Is that even Shakespeare?”
“I’ve never heard of that play!”
These sentiments are completely understandable; Cymbeline is a rare piece that Orlando audiences normally wouldn’t be acquainted with. As we’re prepping for Friday night’s opening of Cymbeline here at Orlando Shakes, I’m here to share some tidbits of the show to inform, entertain, and maybe entice you to check out our show.
As some of us may know, there are 38 plays to Shakespeare’s name (that have survived the test of time). Cymbeline is one of the last works in his repertoire, and it was performed along the same time frame as The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and Henry VIII in 1610-1613 . Initially it was listed as a tragedy, but many historians agree that this piece should be categorized as a romance.
The basic premise is as follows: Princess Imogen, daughter of the British King Cymbeline, decides to go off and marry Posthumus, a man of inferior birth. The King gets angry and banishes Posthumus from the kingdom because Posthumus would be heir to the throne by marriage. The Queen has her own agenda: she wants her son Cloton from a previous marriage to be with Imogen and rule. Imogen runs off to reunite with her true love and trouble ensues (gotta have that conflict!).
Think of this piece as a mixture of the forbidden love in Romeo and Juliet, the culmination of mistaken identities from Twelfth Night, with bits and pieces of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty thrown in for good measure. Not to mention some battles between the Brits and the Romans (Shakespeare is a master of mixing love and war, isn’t he?).
In my research for Cymbeline, I’ve come across two super interesting projects of note.
The first is a TV movie of Cymbeline from 1982, starring none other than Dame Helen Mirren as Imogen! And thanks to the wonderful power of the internet, you can watch the entire film on Youtube. It’s definitely worth watching if only to witness her fantastic acting!
Also, did you know that Cymbeline was revived on Broadway recently? In 2007, Cymbeline opened at Lincoln Center. The production was filled with stars including Michael Cerveris (Titanic, Sweeney Todd revival), Martha Plimpton (Pal Joey & TV’s Raising Hope), and Phylicia Rashad (TV’s The Cosby Show) as the Queen. The show received glowing reviews and played a successful limited run on the Great White Way.
So there you have it. A little background on a great romance by the Bard. This year’s Orlando Shakes production marks the FIRST time we’ve attacked this text in our 24 years of operation. Come join us – it’s sure to be an event not to be missed!
Until next time,
Marketing Intern, Orlando Shakespeare Theater