Bard's language lured young actor into Southern Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale'

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Anthony Gallo finds a connection to the role of Prince Florizell in Southern Shakespeare Company's 2024 Festival.

This spring, Gallo takes on the role as Southern Shakespeare Company celebrates the renewal of life in playwright William Shakespeare's redemptive classic, "The Winter's Tale," Thursday, May 9-Sunday, May 12, at Adderley Amphitheater in Cascades Park.

Shakespeare is one of the most popular and prolific playwrights in history, with approximately 38 plays.

Anthony Gallo as Prince Florizell in Southern Shakespeare Company's upcoming production of "The Winter's Tale," set for May 9-12, 2024.
Anthony Gallo as Prince Florizell in Southern Shakespeare Company's upcoming production of "The Winter's Tale," set for May 9-12, 2024.

Performing problem plays

Traditionally, Shakespearean plays can be divided into three categories: histories, tragedies, and comedies. The history plays fictionalize England's controversial past in plays like "Henry VI" (parts 1, 2, & 3) and "Richard III." Classics like "Romeo & Juliet," "Hamlet," and the "Scottish Play," which superstitious theater artists refuse to say aloud, are classified as tragedies due to their complex situations and tragic endings.

In his comedies, like "Twelfth Night" and "A Mid Summer's Night Dream," Shakespeare makes light of these complexities through disguises and hidden identities, all ending in a metaphoric and literal jig. Then there are the "problem plays," so titled due to the difficulty in placing them into one of the three categories.

"The Winter's Tale" shares the complexities of a tragedy but ends in reconnection and a fulfilling love story. We live in a time when the gray area of what is comical and what is tragic grows greater and greater. Perhaps it is this play's ability to straddle the two, to find the rebirth of possibilities, that makes it such a fitting story for SSC to tell.

Anthony Gallo will play Prince Florizell in Southern Shakespeare Company's 2024 Festival production of "The Winter's Tale."
Anthony Gallo will play Prince Florizell in Southern Shakespeare Company's 2024 Festival production of "The Winter's Tale."

A tale told by themes

To build a world filled with both comedy and tragedy, Shakespeare created connected characters whose job it is to bridge the story and the audience. Emerging actor Anthony Gallo plays a pivotal character in marrying the two, Prince Florizell, the son of Polixenes, King of Bohemia and love interest of Perdita, the long-lost daughter of King Leontes of Sicilia.

Originally from Waxahachie, Texas, Gallo came to Tallahassee to study theater at Florida State University. He found the stage made him feel whole, allowing him to be vulnerable and express emotions he otherwise kept tucked away. A fan of theatere since he was a child, he first discovered Shakespeare in FSU's production of "As You Like It."

Gallo was lured in by the Bard's language and poetic rhythm, and led by his own artistic ambition to speak universal truths on stage. Gallo appreciates working with Shanara Gabrielle, SSC’s newest director, who elevates themes of femininity, motherhood, redemption, and transformation in "The Winter’s Tale."

He feels Gabrielle's vision will connect with modern audiences. "[The stories] can be more simplistic and more relatable," says Gallo. "We can focus on the themes the stories are telling and not the theatrics that tend to accompany other Shakespearean adaptations."

When creating his Shakespearean character, Gallo leaned heavily on the text to inform his choices. Additionally, he is deeply grateful for the guidance given to him by Artistic Director James Bond to explore the commonalities between his character and himself.

Prince Florizell "may be a royal prince inheriting a kingdom, but he's also a young man in love with a woman that he's willing to do anything for," Gallo, said. "I can relate to that feeling."

Gallo, a student of Stanislovski's teachings (a Russian actor, director, and producer who developed his system of method acting), finds resonance with his character through love. Yet, he believes he is more strategic and logical than the headstrong Florizell.

To develop his character, Gallo relied on Stanislovski's "magic if," which encourages actors to ask themselves, “What would I do if I was in this situation?” Gallo believes this tool helped him step into the skin of Prince Florizell, find the motivation for the character's choices, and ultimately deliver a performance rooted in truth.

Anthony Gallo with Kelsey Scott in a Southern Shakespeare Company production.
Anthony Gallo with Kelsey Scott in a Southern Shakespeare Company production.

A Winter's field in spring

The tradition of watching Shakespeare outside is one that originated in the pits or yards of Shakespeare’s own theatre, The Globe. The groundlings watched from the theatre’s yard, the cheapest area where audiences could stand to witness the action. And, although poor in hygiene and sophistication, it is said they never lacked in fun.

The concept of Shakespeare in the Park was created in 1956 by famous theatre producer Joe Papp and originated with the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of "Julius Caeser" in Central Park. Since then, many theaters across the country have utilized this format world-wide.

"The Winter's Tale" is SSC's most recent outdoor festival performance. They claimed their residency on The Adderley Amphitheater stage at Cascades Park in 2015 with their production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed by Lanny Thomas, starring special guest artist Jef Canter as Bottom. For the past 10 years, SSC has offered free Shakespeare in the Park to the Tallahassee community filled with food, friends, and follies.

Southern Shakespeare Company also offers educational services including "The Sonnet Man," "Shakespeare Summer Camps," and SSC's youth Shakespeare troupe, "The Bardlings," who will perform an abridged version of "The Tempest" at this year's festival.

The company’s dedication to growing young artists is evident in the mentoring and performance opportunity Gallo was given as an actor in the past few years. His first production was "Antony and Cleopatra" in 2023.

"That show was my first professional credit, and it was my first time performing Shakespeare," Gallo said. "I'm delighted to be back for my second show."

Gallo asks audiences to park their preconceived notions about Shakespeare in the parking lot. This year’s fresh, fun and meaningful production will offer audiences a new impression of Shakespeare and reveal how SSC contributes to creating ambitious theatre in Tallahassee.

If you go

What: Southern Shakespeare Company presents "The Winter's Tale" with The Bardlings presenting "The Tempest"

When: Thursday, May 9-Sunday, May 12 at 7:30 PM | May 11 & 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Cascades Park 1001 S Gadsden St.

Cost: Free

Contact: 850-728-8523 |

Information: Visit

Dr. Christy Rodriguez de Conte is the feature writer for the Council on Culture & Arts (COCA). COCA is the capital area's umbrella agency for arts and culture (

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Southern Shakespeare Festival delivers second role for young actor