Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Orange County. Days 24-28.

I made the drive to San Clemente in southern Orange County, arriving about 4 o’clock in the morning, and slept in the next day (Monday).

Monday I made it up to LA to have dinner with my friend Mary at my favorite vegan restaurant in LA, Sage.

Tuesday I camped out at Verve Coffee for a bit, got my hair cut by one of my favorite hairstylists, then got dinner with my buddy Chris.

Wednesday, I went to Disneyland.

Thursday, I went to San Diego and wandered around Balboa Park.

Friday, I went to Huntington, one of my favorite places in LA. Huntington is a huge botanical garden, science museum, library, and art museum. Their library has a First Folio and a Gutenberg Bible. It was wild seeing these two volumes in the same place. It’s like the entirety of western civilization in two books.

That night I went to see New Swan’s production of The Winter’s Tale with Mary, Jay, and Mary’s parents. The New Swan is undoubtedly the coolest space I saw on the trip. It’s a miniature Globe, but really really miniature. Seating only 130, it’s a super intimate experience from any seat in the house. There’s no stage; they play on the floor. The “groundling” seats are chairs with no legs on the floor, then there’s a first gallery, and a second gallery.

This was my first time seeing The Winter’s Tale, so I went in with no expectations. The setting was Victorian, which I think made sense, given the text’s focus on jealousy and decorum.

I honestly can’t speak highly enough of the entire show. The cast, the staging choices, everything was perfect. This was one of the top three shows I saw on the trip. The entire cast was amazing, but their Hermione was particularly great. She played such a well-rounded character, from the lighthearted and sassy ease of the opening scene, to the heartbroken dignity of her imprisonment.

There’s a pretty hard pivot about halfway through the show where it goes from being a tragedy to a comedy, and this production chose to handle it by making the famous “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” moment a cartoonish chase sequence, complete with silly music.

There are two ways to approach that final scene, either that Hermione has been in hiding for the sixteen years, or that the statue has really come to life, that there is real magic at play here. This production went with the latter, which I personally find more satisfying.

There was a talkback with the cast after the show, where I asked about performing in such an intimate space and whether the statue at the end was magical or Hermione was simply in hiding.

The cast was running Winter’s Tale in repertory with Dream, and I wish I’d had time to come back and see their Dream before heading home but I already had plans to see Independent Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus before hitting the road home.