Cleveland Shakespeare Festival's new leader directs The Winter's Tale

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Cleveland Shakespeare Festival The Winter's Tale 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday Lincoln Park, Tremont Various locations through August 2 Free cleveshakes.org

Tyson Douglas Rand has done just about every job the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival offers. Since joining the itinerant summer company — which produces free Shakespeare in parks and other venues around town — in 2005, he's served as props master, designer, director, production manager and managing director, all of which prepared him for his latest position.

Originally from Fostoria, Ohio, Rand studied theatre at Findlay College and Wright State University but didn't finish. He's been a Clevelander for about 25 years, though most of his professional theater credits are in Denver.

The first production he'll direct in CSF's top role is The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays — serious and dramatic at the beginning, but with a happy ending. It's also rich in trivia, including possibly the first written use of the word "dildo," and the famous stage direction, "exit, pursued by a bear." Rand says his production will touch on the drama and romance, but it will also remind audiences that it is still a comedy. It's the story of two kings, two kingdoms and the suspicion of an affair. Drama turns to comedy with one king's change of heart. "There's mistaken identity, and all ends on happy note: The lost child comes back, the queen never actually died," says Rand.

To help the Tale resonate in the 21st century, he set the first part — which takes place in the kingdom of Sicilia — in a world of black-and-white-TV-style characters. The second part is set in Bohemia, where flower children live in a shepherding commune. Old TV sitcoms provide the scene-change music, which emphasizes the comedy, even in tense situations.

"The one that brings a silly grin to my face is after Queen Hermione is indicted for treason and adultery," says Rand. "we use theme from Perry Mason."

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