TheaterMania: What drew you to The Winter's Tale?
Brian Kulick: It's a play that's always haunted me, because there's a kind of irreparableness to it. In Winter's Tale there's these tremendous, violent, irreparable things that happen, and one of the questions is: How do you survive that? How do you prevent it, and when it happens, how do you go on? And how time becomes a mediator for that. My life has been filled with emotional, irreparable moments, and how to come to peace with that has always been something that I've grabbled with. I thought the play would be a good play for me, at this point in my life, to look at that. There is a healing that happens in Winter's Tale, and as we come to the end of century that has been filled with irreparable historic infamy, it felt like a good thing. So, it allowed me to reflect backwards and to project forwards.
TM: There's that ending, with its incredible forgiveness and transformation.
Kulick: Yeah. Also, there's just how to live, on a basic, philosophical level. After this irreparable thing happens, Leontes spends 16 years of his life in the past, and Hermione, who's hiding away--hiding from him--spends 16 years thinking in the future of when her daughter re-arrives. So here you have one person who's living his life in a past tense, and one person who's living her life in a future tense, but there's no now. There's no present, there's no being. And as Hamlet says, "Let be." And here "let be" re-occurs as a phrase. There's something about living in the present--not being pulled too far backward or throwing yourself too far forwards, but taking it moment by moment, so to speak. That also, philosophically, is a helpful way of thinking.
TM: Pericles, Cymbeline, and Winter's Tale are all among Shakespeare's late Romances, and The Public's done them all recently.
Kulick: And Timon. Timon is the tale end of one cycle, and the beginning of a new cycle. And I think the sequencing, they believe, is Timon, Pericles, Cymbeline, Winter's Tale. So for me, it's been very fun to go from Timon, a play which is about absolute "no"--it's so no that you yell back yes--to a series of plays that begin in the world of no and move toward yes, to some other way of reconciling those terrible things that can happen to people as they make their ways through their lives. So that's always been very rewarding, to be able to live in that in-between from no to yes.
TM: What's the picture on the other side of the screen?
Kulick: Well, there's two. There's Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Mantegna's "Triumph and Virtue". Along with many other things that the play plays with are these issues of nature versus art, and where is art's place in the grand scheme of things. It deals with these basic, big, huge, fundamental sort of things like the world, and the earth, and art. And the late philosopher Heideger in some ways is similar to these late Romances, because Heideger talks about: We live in a world, and we think that's the earth--we think we live in a constructed society--and we've forgotten about these basic fundamental things, which are in fact the earth. And one of the ways to sort of get back to the earth, back to something fundamental, not abstract, is through art. Heideger talks about Doric columns in a Greek temple, and how they allow you to see sky. That those columns frame sky, and otherwise you would be unaware of it--because you're in a world, not on earth. So one of the things that we wanted to do is move from these one-dimensional, two-dimensional images of art to sort of three-dimensional, more sculptural things, and to finally embrace the park as the sort of ultimate. So, again, in a way nature can become a collaborator, framing Shakespeare's art.