TACOMA, Wash. – Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night—which famously begins with the separation of two twins in a shipwreck—is treated by some directors as a light-hearted farce, by others as a love story with a melancholy edge.
University of Puget Sound Professor of Theatre Arts Geoff Proehl is asking his student actors to discover as much as they can of both these interpretations of the play.
Twelfth Night, directed by Proehl and presented by the theatre arts department, will be performed in Norton Clapp Theatre in Jones Hall. The dates include: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28; Saturday, Oct. 29; Thursday, Nov. 3; Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5; with an afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. Scenic design is by Kurt Walls, costume design is by Mishka Navarre, and lighting design is by Richard Moore. Ticket information is below and everyone is welcome.
The play, originally written by William Shakespeare around 1601–02, will be set in England’s Romantic era of the 1820s, in part, Proehl says, “because the play asks us to consider what we think about romanticism, about romantic love.”
“We are, perhaps rightly, fairly cynical about both at times,” he adds. “What is romantic love, after all, other than a certain stew of chemicals in the brain that so often, in time, seem to dissipate? So why should we care about a play filled with people falling in love, usually with the wrong person, sometimes not even knowing the actual name or gender of the person they are so passionate for?
“Perhaps part of what this tells us is that love may be less concerned about who we love than that we love. Perhaps this helps us learn how it feels for the heart to open, what the heart is.”
Certainly the characters in the play—the young Viola, trapped in her own clever disguise as a man; the lovesick nobleman Orsino; the beautiful, melancholic Olivia; and the generous, heroic Antonio—learn all too quickly what it is to give your heart away. Whether each emerges the wiser or somehow larger in character, the audience can judge for themselves.
Twelfth Night is a bewitching and funny story of the aristocratic twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are shipwrecked and separated. Viola, alone in a strange land, disguises herself as a man, calling herself Cesario, and finds work in the grand house of Duke Orsino. Viola falls for this nobleman she serves, but he is in love with another, the lovely, but disdainful Olivia, who has sworn off romance for seven years, following the death of her father and brother. Olivia’s pledge is quickly forgotten, however, as she falls for the young man who brings her messages of love from the besotted Duke—none other than Viola herself, still in the disguise of a man.
The drama of this love triangle is complicated by the backstory of Olivia’s straitlaced steward, Malvolio, who becomes the victim of a cruel joke involving another love interest, after he annoys his fellow servants with his complaints about their riotous drinking and singing.
The comedy of mistaken identities continues to the end when the truth comes out, the figures on the chess board pair up in unlikely ways, and love proves itself fickle or powerful—all depending on your perspective.
Proehl, who last directed Twelfth Night at Puget Sound two decades ago, says he returned to the play because of its enduring relevance for actors and audience alike.
“Although the setting is the Romantic era,” he says, “When it comes down to it, it’s all about the here and now, about a group of people—actors, designers, directors, assistant directors, dramaturgs, and the entire production crew—trying to figure out what this play has to say to us … here and now.”
FOR TICKETS: Tickets are available online at tickets.pugetsound.edu, or at Wheelock Information Center, 253.879.3100. Admission is $11 for the general public; $7 for seniors (55+), students, military, and Puget Sound faculty, students, and staff. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.Print This Post