March 31, 2009

British bear sightings a theater hoax

A British theater company said reports of a bear wandering Rendlesham Forest were part of a hoax to draw an audience to Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.

The Red Rose Chain Theatre Company said fears of an escaped bear were sparked after they persuaded three people to report seeing a brown bear -- a species extinct in England since the 11th century -- near Ipswich, England, as part of their promotion for the upcoming play, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

Company members said a famous stage direction from A Winter's Tale calls for a character to Exit -- pursued by a bear, so they played on the bear scene in promotional materials including a video posted to YouTube.

We didn't want to scare anyone, actor and designer Jimmy Grimes said. "The idea is to get kids interested and excited about the play. We want to create a family-friendly, fairytale feel for the production.

"This is our 10th forest production. It's such an unusual event so we're always looking for ways to get people interested. No one really knows that much about the play. There's a tiny little stage direction -- Exit, pursued by a bear -- and a bear is supposed to follow him and it turns out he gets eaten by the bear.

This tiny little stage direction is probably the most famous part of the play and it's something we thought we could use to get kids interested.