Shakespeare veteran Jim Helsinger directs the epic love story in July and August
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival continues its season of myths, legends and fairy tales with the classic, fantasy-like Cymbeline. From battle scenes to mistaken identities to a magical love story, this timeless play still sweeps audiences of all ages off their feet more than 400 years after it was first staged. Performances run July 14-Aug. 7 in CU Boulder’s University Theatre.
In this mythic, idyllic romance, Cymbeline is a vassal king of the mighty Roman Empire, but Britain herself remains a wild and untamed land. When the king banishes Posthumus—his beautiful daughter’s illicit, low-born husband—his daughter Imogen flees into a Welsh forest that still rings with Britain’s legendary past. By turns comic, heroic and harrowing, this tale of gods, villains, lovers and warriors brings the entire CSF company together on stage.
“It’s full of wonderful fantasy and plot twists that we rarely see in anything except a Disney movie these days,” says director Jim Helsinger. “We’re going to see potions of poison, comedic gender bending and big fight scenes. Cymbeline is a beautiful fairy tale, but at the same time it’s thrilling.”
Helsinger said that when it came time to decide on a setting for Cymbeline, he couldn’t resist the classic forest environment. Helsinger chose to set this play close in time to the era when the real Cymbeline ruled, from about the first century BC to about 40 AD.
“Our setting enhances the fairy tale elements even more than usual,” he says. “Americans love fairy tales. We love when, improbably and against all odds, love wins the day.”
Helsinger isn’t new to Cymbeline, having directed and performed in it before—but he says he finds something new to love about it every time he returns to the script.
“I find this story so universally compelling,” Helsinger says. “What’s perhaps most compelling is the journey of this innocent woman, Imogen, who’s accused of adultery she doesn’t commit and who goes to many lengths to redeem herself and reunite with her lover.”
The experienced Shakespearean also isn’t new to CSF; last year, Helsinger made his festival debut directing the critically acclaimed “Much Ado About Nothing” on the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. He said CSF Producing Artistic Director Timothy Orr approached him to direct Cymbeline after seeing his work on the play at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival, where he has served as artistic director for 20 years. Like many others before him, Helsinger had fallen in love with Boulder and was happy to oblige.
“Last year, the town of Boulder was so welcoming, and audiences were so thrilled to have Shakespeare there on the quad that they were willing to face the rain, thunder and elements to hear and see poetry,” Helsinger said. “I had such a wonderful time.”
Cymbeline runs July 14 to Aug. 7 at the indoor University Theatre on the CU Boulder campus. Tickets start at $20. To buy season or single tickets, go to coloradoshakes.org, call (303) 492-8008 or visit the CU Presents Box Office at 972 Broadway in Boulder.