By William Shakespeare
Directed by: Joel Greenberg
Performances: November 14-17, 2001
Venue: Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages Building
Twelfth Night is my favourite of all Shakespeare's comedies and it is among my favourite three or four of the entire canon. And what exactly has this to do with the production you are about to experience? First, I think the play is an ideal choice for students because it is about love and the complexities of that powerful word. And since students are between the ages of 18-23, discoveries about love and how we respond to emotions far more powerful than our intellect, strikes me as entirely age-appropriate. Second, those of us beyond the student age range have plenty to feed upon in this play about what love means and how easily we work to make it a mirror for our personal needs. As with so much in Shakespeare, whether in the classroom or on the stage, the possibilities are limitless and the themes continue to resonate as we age and add to our experiences.
Our production is set in a land fairly overrun by time and neglect. We know that Olivia's father and brother have both recently died, we know that Orsino is pining for his love and we know that Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian, have been victims of a horrendous storm at sea. Everyone is in a state of chaos and disorientation. Until the couples are properly paired -i.e. until love becomes a genuine emotion rather than selfish whim - Nature cannot be calmed.
We have also decided to set the play in the 1960's, but we aren't doing a period send-up or a fashion portfolio of that era. Instead, we are using a time that is known for its liberation of gender and sexual freedom and we hope that the specific references help to consolidate the play's themes. Every time a production of any Shakespeare's plays is re-set in time, the production is severely tested by the transposition. Our take on Twelfth Night is no different.
This Twelfth Night also includes a fair amount of music. Since the play's openig line ("If music be the food of love, play on...) invites song, we have interpolated eight songs from two different musical adaptations: Your Own Thing, a late 60's rock version of Twelfth Night, and an early 70's musical adaptation of The Two Gentleman of Verona.
Finally, with a cast of young actors playing all the roles, I have decided to look at the play's optimism and vitality rather than its often-explored melancholy. So, our Feste is no older than anyone else is and he doesn't reflect on the passage of youth. To the contrary, he sets many of the play's event in motion, aided in large part by an invented character we call Spirit of Love. the drunken Sir Toby Belch is here played by a youthful lad who is more Olivia's cousin than her uncle. (Since he is referred to as both things in the text, we have elected to use what serves us best.)
We all hope that you will find our look at Twelfth Night insightful, inventive and fun.
Joel Greenberg, Director