I thought part one of The Gap of Time was so interesting, engaging, and, overall, a great adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The plot line of The Winter’s Tale had many layers, so already knowing the plot line of the story allowed me to focus on the characters and all the elements of the story. Although the characters are pretty similar to The Winter’s Tale, the more modern changes allowed me to get a better understanding of their thoughts and emotions. At first I was confused what time period or where this story is taking place because it includes more modern elements compared to The Winter’s Tale while also keeping traditional aspects that aren’t seen today, like Mimi, wife of Leo, having her own bedroom. However, I really enjoyed it. The magical elements and languages used reminded me of Shakespeare, showing that he influenced not only the plot. I am really curious how the story of this adaptation will continue and if the ending will be different, like a more modern take on the play.

I really like Winterson’s adaptation of The Winter’s Tale, because it feels like it honors the impact of the play, while still adapting the plot to a different context. The poetry and beauty of language that Shakespeare is known for, were kept, and it centers the story within the larger narrative. The fact that she outlines Shakespeare’s original plot before the book begins it allows the reader to focus less on the plot, and instead focus on the themes and ideas that she is developing. As a reader you aren’t worrying about where the plot is taking you, because you already know a bit. This allows you to sink into the characteristics. This is especially powerful when encountering characters like Leo, his aggression is so overwhelming even when you are distanced from it as the reader. Somehow, his aggression feels slightly less all encompassing when you know what is to come. His anger and vitriol are still poignant, but are slightly muted by the knowledge of the eventual retribution. 

One thing that I really like about this adaptation is that there are already elements of the mystical that are being incorporated. Shakespeare’s version feels very realistic until the end, when suddenly there is magic that brings Hermione back to life, but I feel like there already is an element of the book that is mystical, and not fully grounded in reality. The jumps in time make the story feel less rigid and linear.

My favorite thing about the book so far is when Winterson breaks the fourth wall. Her brief mention of the actual play was a fun reminder of where the plot comes from. The quote reminds the reader of the original play, and also queues them into an important idea of forgiveness, and redemption. 

First thoughts after reading Part 1 is WOW. The storylines between A Winter’s Tale and A Gap Of Time are very similar – Leo/Leontes both accuse their wife of cheating on them with their friend. When A Winter’s Tale describes this situation, they do not give any background/flashback to understand Leontes friendship with Polixenes. In contrast, A Gap Of Time goes in DEEP detail as to the relationship between Leo and Xeno. There is much more sexual talk between characters especially regarding the history of Leo and Xeno. We continue to see Leo/Leontes play a crazy role. For one they are harsh in their assumptions of cheating but also, in a gap in time, Leo tries to kill Xeno by running him over. The relationship between Leo and Xeno is an extremely interesting one – lots of history, lots of sex, and lots of confusion.

The Gap of Time delivers a lot of context and history that was lacking in A Winter’s Tale. Although I still have very similar feelings about the characters, I appreciated having a better understanding of the situation. I still think Leo/Leontes is insecure and crazy. I felt bad Polixenes and still feel bad for Xeno but I think he is not nearly as innocent as he appears. I wish Mimi stood up with Leo a bit more but this story was lacking the trial that presented the perfect situation for Hermione to publicly stand up for herself.

It is funny that I know where this story is headed but also know there is so much more up the authors sleeve to surprise us and help us learn more about the characters.

I don’t know about anyone else but the first section of The Gap of Time was a whirlwind for me, but I really enjoyed it. The non-linear storytelling, the modern and slightly dystopian setting, and the character changes were all refreshing, interesting, and grabbed me from the beginning.

First of all, I thought Winterson did a fabulous job with the characters. I liked the slightly updated variation of all the names as well as the different professions and places in which this all occurred. I thought Leo would probably be a politician or powerful CEO, but his position as a hedge fund manager with a clear anger problem really made a lot of sense. I also really enjoyed that MiMi was a famous singer, which, unlike in The Winter’s Tale, adds an interesting power dynamic and backstory to that relationship.

I think my favorite aspect of the first part, however, was the added backstory and context to both Leo and Xeno and their relationship. The scarring childhood and family life, unanswered questions about his sexuality, almost killing his childhood best friend, and constant suppression of his feelings and emotions would certainly make for an extremely erratic, irrational, and paranoid person, like Leo. While it doesn’t excuse or make his behavior later on any more permissible, it does help it make more sense. Even the part about him getting fired and arrested tells you all you need to know: he’s angry, irrational, and illogical. But what was perhaps even more surprising was just how natural the whole backstory seemed. While I was not expecting Winterson to take it in quite that direction, I was really pleasantly surprised by how much sense it made and how she tied it all together. Maybe that’s just because the original makes such little sense, but I found it overall to be a really gripping and enjoyable adaptation of the original. I’m extremely excited to see how she adapts the rest of the play, as well as to find out more about Shep. His introduction is pretty mysterious and I think his adaptation going forward could be really interesting.

While I thoroughly enjoyed watching Into the Woods for the first time since it came out (all the music is still stuck in my head!), I would like to focus my response on the assigned reading. After reading “Folktale, Romance, and the Disney Formula,” I first drew some clear connections between Perdita of Winter’s Tale and Cinderella from Into the Woods because both exhibit the “fair unknown” archetype of folklore. Aside from these connections, the reading also helped me to better understand the source of my discontent with some of the unresolved or “unpolished” plot points in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. These plot points include but are not limited to Leontes’ sudden accusations in the first act, the sudden bear scene (?) in act 3, and a host of unresolved issues at the conclusion of the play (many of which we discussed in class that distinguish The Winter’s Tale as a “problem play”). Just as Disney movies simplify and condense folktales from their original forms into digestible and popular movies for a modern audience, Shakespeare’s romances had a similar task of distilling recognizable folktales into plays for an Elizabethan audience. At the end of the reading, Lipscomb reaffirms this notion:

In both Disney fairy tale and Shakespearean romance, we will find a common fund of folklore elements, but we must not expect that Shakespeare’s romances, like Disney fairy tales, will employ the more logical plotting and characterization the we moderns have come to expect. (90)

As we have discussed in class and as the podcasts have noted, Shakespeare wrote and performed for a wide array of theatre-goers from all classes and backgrounds. His plays, in some ways, could be thought of as the Disney movies of his time, given their universal appeal. After this reading I realize that, although I find fault in the logics of some of the character’s actions, I feel similarly about some of Disney’s simplified and often optimistic reimaginings of fairy tales. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Disney movies are so fun to watch! I now realize, from this reading, that there is only so much that can fit into a play, just as there is only so much that can fit into a Disney movie.

‎Into the Woods (2014) on iTunes      The Brother’s Grimm made some of the most famous fairy tales in history. Disney, of course, made them more appropriate for us to watch as kids. “Into the Woods” re-Disneyfied already existing Disney stories and turned them into a musical. But, even though all of those filters, the similarities and possible inspiration from Shakespeare still exist. There is definitely a sense of romantic relationships being similar in “Into the Woods” and in some of the Shakespeare works we have read.

 

At the same time, perhaps because of the type of people portrayed in the movie, there is a higher sense of reliability to some of the characters. I think it could be because it does not seem as cookie-cutter as some of Shakespeare’s plays and a sense of feeling more familiar to people. But what this makes me think about is that people found that sense of familiarity with things on stage during Shakespeare’s time. Our understanding of the Brother’s Grimm’s fairy tales helps us shape and relate them to each other and ourselves. Adding Shakespeare into the mix actually makes it easier to understand why his plays’ romantic relationships seem so “generic.” Once we see the cliches in the Grimm Brothers’ stories, we see that there have always been cliches when dealing with romance in general.

The first issue I had with this is that the sheer amount of Hollywood star power is insanely distracting when watching this movie. Most of the actors are too well-known to properly blend into a fairytale movie like this. To me, that is part of the beauty of musicals: you don’t actually know the actors on the stage independently of their work. Having almost every character played by someone who I knew from something else in a modern context made the suspension of disbelief impossible. Suspension of disbelief is what allows us to get invested in movies, because we actually care about the characters because in some way, we believe it’s real. But it was never Cinderella singing to me; it was always Anna Kendrick. Even a really talented actress like Meryl Streep

I also think this is one of the musicals that plays better on the stage than it does in a movie. It is completely illogical that the characters would continue to run into each other in the woods in the way that they do in the movie. Onstage, it makes more sense, and plays a lot better. The minimalism of the stage allows more focus on the characters and the songs rather than analyzing the plot for its wild inconsistencies. The forest was also too dark, making it difficult to see.

This movie just didn’t do it for me. The characters dying felt somewhat random and undeserved. When the Baker says “I shouldn’t have let her wander off alone,” I thought ‘that’s what you’ve been doing this whole time!’ Cutting between characters during a song takes away the majesty of blocking and staging a musical. Sometimes, the adaptations just don’t do the source justice.

One major aspect of similarity I recognized was the desire to place blame on others. In Into the Woods, after the Baker’s wife dies, the Baker, Jack, Little Red, Cinderella, and the Witch all fight over “who is to blame” for the entire situation. Similarly, Much Ado has a plot twist in Acts 3-5 where characters spend, in my opinion way too much time, debating on who created the problem and who must suffer for its consequences (Hero, Claudio, Don Pedro, Don John, Borachio and Conrad?). This is a major plotline in both productions.

Another aspect of similarity between Shakespeare’s works and Disney films today can be found in the way couples find each other. For example, Hero heard about Claudio because he was a valiant soldier. She was attracted to him before they ever met because of his status and the way she heard he carried himself, but he ended up not being the “best guy” in the end. Just like Prince Charming. To Cinderella, he seemed to be this magnificent guy from afar, but in reality, he proved to be shallow and not worth her time. Once again, status and the way one is perceived by the world trump one’s true heart and nature. The only difference here was that Cinderella, in Into the Woods, was able to leave the Prince, but luckily, in our version of Much Ado, Hero follows the same outcome!

Prior to watching this film I was not super familiar with the storyline of Into the Woods and did not know what to expect from it. I found this film to be extremely entertaining in the way it combined so many different fairytales of Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. In following these different fairytales through the storyline of the Baker and his wife’s quest to break the witch’s curse against their family, it brought out some fundamental implications of some of these fairytales in the end. Particularly in the case of Cinderella, by having her relationship with the Prince not work out in the end because of his infidelity, it showed that the fairytale endings of finding a Prince Charming are not realistic and not what girls should always aspire to. His line about how he was taught to be charming and not sincere stood out to me most. I further interpreted this as a call out to the way that some men are raised and a response to the effects of toxic masculinity.

While the ending was filled with twists and turns, it turned out to be unexpectedly heartwarming. Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker, and Cinderella were all able to come together and showed how the simplicities of everyday life like running a bakery, maintaining a household, and raising children are enough for people. I enjoyed that this movie deromanticized the lives of the upper-class royalty and instead focused on the sincerity of the working-class. It showed that money and material objects are not what life is about, but having sincere and honest relationships.

Background info: I hadn’t since the film since 2016 but watched it with my best friend who is also obsessed with musical theatre 🙂

 

I remembered basic plot points of how Into the Woods intertwined several classic fairytales, but had forgotten some of the, arguably, most notable (for various reasons) parts of the film. For example, I never realized how “I Know Things Now” can be applied to literally any life setback or curveball caused by mistrusting someone. There can also be multiple, disturbing parallels between reality and the wolf and red riding hood dynamic. In all honestly, my friend and I were more watching to give commentary rather than watching for entertainment purposes. Topics such as beauty standards, consent, manipulation, and gaslighting were frequently brought up. Don’t even get me started on the competition of ego seen in “Agony”; though I have to admit this was best song in terms of comedic lyricism. Another part where I was able to genuinely separate myself from accepting things as they happen was during “On the Steps of the Palace”. They’re really just going to stop time? Also, Cinderella really said “Well it means that he cares” in response to him trying to prevent her from running away? It was this moment where my best friend and I screamed, “NO!”, at the top of our lungs and then began our spiel of healthy relationships. Also, were tears shed during “No One is Alone”? Yes, yes there were. This song in particular fits so well into the storyline, but is also a beautiful piece on its own. This is also the perfect example of how casting heavily influences performance impact.

 

Overall, the rollercoaster of loving and hating this movie while constant commentary made it a wonderful experience. I’m looking forward to breaking down the meanings of the fairytales in class because it will continue our recent theme of learning how theatre can be used as a vehicle for something so much more than entertainment. Whether acting, producing or viewing, I continue to firmly believe that this artform is one of the most underrated and purest forms of conveying emotion.