Folger Theatre reopens for first play since 2020 as real-life husband and wife star in ‘The Winter’s Tale’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Winter's Tale' at Folger Theatre (Part 1)

In March 2020, D.C.’s Folger Theatre performed its final show before renovations to Folger Shakespeare Library.

This Sunday, live theater finally returns to Folger Theatre with William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.”

“It was a happy synchronicity for Folger actually,” actress Kate Eastwood Norris told WTOP. “The last show we did was ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in March of 2020, then they were going to shut the theater down for the renovations of the entire building and that just happened to be when COVID pulled up a seat to the table.”

While renovations to the larger Folger Shakespeare Library building won’t be completed until spring 2024, the Folger Theatre itself is now officially back in business for theatrical productions as of this weekend.

“Walking in on that first day of rehearsal back into the building after almost three years, we got a little teary,” actor Cody Nickell told WTOP. “It’s such a beautiful space, it’s one of my favorite theaters to perform in and to get in there again is really special. … This is a story about welcoming audiences back into this space after three years of not being able to be there, the joy we are giving people to come back to the Folger and celebrate with us.”

The timeless play follows two rival kings: King Leontes of Sicily (Hadi Tabbal) and King Polixenes of Bohemia (Drew Kopas), who were once childhood best friends and now are rivals.

“King Leontes of Sicily gets very jealous of his queen and best friend, the King of Bohemia, and he thinks they’re having an affair,” Nickell said. “It’s a tale of jealousy of this mad king dealing out damage in his kingdom, then he realizes he’s wrong and begins to repent. The second half of the play is 16 years later in Bohemia, where we see Polixenes’ son grow up and fall in love, then we all head back to Sicily to reunite and make amends.”

Nickell plays Camillo, “the right-hand man to the jealous king who wants me to kill his best friend. I say, ‘I’ll do it,’ but then I renege on that and run away with the other king. Basically my character is one of the moral centers.”

Meanwhile, Norris plays Paulina, “sort of the right-hand woman to the queen who basically goes in there and rips his head off, she is furious with him, she speaks truth to power regardless of the danger for herself.”

By the end, the two are betrothed to be married, ironic considering they are husband and wife in real life. Nickell and Norris met 17 years ago during a Shakespeare play in Santa Cruz, California, got engaged the following year in California and got married the year after that in Maryland, so this year marks their 15th wedding anniversary.

“We get married at the end of the play … the wedding is alluded to at the very end, we’re going to get married,” Nickell said. “We met on a play where our characters got married at the end of a Shakespeare play, so we’ve had practice. … If you’re talking about literal performances, [we’ve been married] hundreds [of times], ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ we’ve played married people where there wasn’t a wedding … we have been ‘fiance’d’ many, many times!”

Listen to our full conversation here.

Find ticket information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Winter's Tale' at Folger Theatre (Part 2)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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