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Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” Will Be the First Annual Outdoor Theater Event at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre


"Twelfth Night" has it all: shipwreck, cross dressing, mistaken identity ....

The Town of Cary will present an outdoors modern-dress production of TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL, a rollicking romantic comedy written by English poet and dramatist William Shakespeare (1564-1616) for the close of the Christmas season, circa 1601-02, on Aug. 26-28 in the Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park. Originally written for the close of the Christmas season, circa 1601-02, and one of the Immortal Bard’s most popular plays, TWELFTH NIGHT is the Koka Booth Amphitheatre’s first annual outdoor theater event.

“Shakespeare has always been a part of my life,” claims TWELFTH NIGHT director David Henderson. “I have vivid memories of my English teacher playing a scratchy LP of JULIUS CAESAR. Hearing the heightened language was an ‘ear-opening’ experience for a kid from Eastern North Carolina. I think that is the moment where it all started…. I can’t remember when I first read or saw TWELFTH NIGHT, but I did work on Theatre in the Park‘s production in the late 1990s. We brought in over a ton of sand and created a beach inside the theater!”

Henderson adds, “Shakespeare’s shows are like gifts that keep on giving. I think that is what drew me back to TWELFTH NIGHT.

“At one point in your life, TWELFTH NIGHT is a full on comedy,” Henderson declares. “At another phase, you may be drawn to the real grief of Olivia and Viola…. The gulling of Malvolio is funny, but hearing his pleas in the cell point out how cruel it is.

“We are trying to find the balance between those elements,” says Henderson. “We are not going to overplay the melancholy…. BUT we have to be aware that the play is NOT a romp … it is real … it is life … tragic and funny all at the same time. The pain is deep … the laughter loud.”

When the curtain rises on TWELFTH NIGHT, says director David Henderson, “Brother and sister Viola and Sebastian, (Beth Popelka and Ryan Brock), who are very close and look a great deal alike, are in a shipwreck, and both think the other dead.

“When she lands in a foreign country,” Henderson says, “Viola dresses as her brother and adopts the name Cesario, becoming a trusted friend and confidante to the Count Orsino (Zach Thomas). Orsino is madly in love with the lady Olivia (Betsy Henderson), who is in mourning due to her brother’s recent death, which she uses as an excuse to avoid seeing the count, whom she does not love. He sends Cesario to do his wooing, and Olivia falls in love with the disguised maiden.”

Henderson adds, “Things get more complicated when a moronic nobleman, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jesse R. Gephart), and a self-important servant, Malvolio (Steven Roten), get caught up in the schemes of Olivia’s gentlewoman Maria (Susannah Hough) and cousin, Sir Toby Belch (Stuart Byham), who lead each to believe Olivia loves him. Then, Sebastian surfaces in the Illyria, leading to some mistaken identity. Then there is Feste (Rasool Jahan), the wise fool, around to keep everything in perspective.”

In addition to the actors named above, the TWELFTH NIGHT cast includes John Honeycutt as a Sea Captain and a Priest, Robert Wallace as Valentine and the Second Officer, George Kaiser as Curio and the First Officer, Jason Sharp as Fabian, and Brook North as Antonio.

In addition to director David Henderson, the Town of Cary creative team for TWELFTH NIGHT includes producer Deb Royals-Mizerk, assistant director Carnessa Ottelin, technical director Dave Clemmer, set designer Shannon Clark, lighting designer Joshua Anthony Reaves, costume designer David Serxner, properties manager Leanne Norton Heintz, sound designer Tom Wolf, and stage manager Andy Hayworth.

“I was honored and thrilled to serve as the producer for TWELFTH NIGHT, our first professional theater production at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre,” says producer Deb Royals-Mizerk. “… The venue, which is widely recognized for offering patrons a diverse blend of entertainment each year, is now expanding in a direction that for management seems like a natural extension. For the amphitheatre, which is marking its 10th season, bringing variety and culture that enriches the lives of the patrons it serves continues to be the top goal.”

Royals-Mizerk adds, “This celebration of Shakespeare and the partnership with our own theatrical community is another exciting way to make Booth Amphitheatre’s 10th season something really extraordinary. One of my main objectives with this project was to bring the piece to fruition without having to go outside North Carolina’s borders to find talent. Incorporating our Triangle professionals from both the technical and artistic sides to make this production happen really enforces the idea of going ‘local’!

“Building on the terrific musical offerings, movies and festivals, theater is a natural extension of the amphitheatre’s mission for having one the most eclectic schedule of cultural events in the region,” claims Deb Royals-Mizerk.

“Since we have set the play in 1945,” says costume designer David Serxner, “I am using mostly vintage clothes from my collection for the ladies, and we are repurposing later clothes like suits for the men. The fashion industry in Europe was just starting to find its feet again after the War and the need for fabric rationing for the civilian clothing market. Christian Dior did not introduce his ‘New Look’ with its full skirts, small waists, and larger busts until 1947, so the women are still in slim pencil skirts and trousers with a more box-like silhouette.”

When the play begins, Serxner adds, “Olivia is still in mourning for her deceased brother, as are Maria and her other attendants, so she starts the play in black and moves towards a more festive wardrobe as the story progresses. I get the chance to use some of vintage black dresses that have lots of amazing detail in them. One of Olivia’s blouses has its original ‘French jet’ (black glass) buttons.

“I am basing Sir Toby Belch on the character of the Marquis de la Chesnaye, from Jean Renior’s La Règle du jeu (RULES OF THE GAME) — the upper-class landowner, with his Norfolk jacket and tweed suit. Because the details are so important,” Serxner says, “I am borrowing vintage costume jewelry for the production from Laura Orcutt.”

He explains, “Count Orsino and his court are a mixture of military influences with the combat boots and men’s evening wear with the tuxedo pants, shirts, and bow ties. You will have to come and watch the performance to see how we handle Malvolio’s cross garters and the jail scene!”

Lighting designer Joshua Reaves says, the lighting for TWELFTH NIGHT will be “natural.”

“When I think of natural light,” Reaves explains, “I think of light that revels things as they are, unembellished and unexaggerated. We want to let the story show through and not allow theatrics to get in the way. The lighting for this production of TWELFTH NIGHT pushes this idea of natural light to an extreme. Not only will the world we create use artificial light to create a natural feel, but we will make use of the natural sun light here at Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

“Most designers deal with 575w light on a stage, but with this show I get to play with a 384.6 yottawatt light in the sky (that’s 3.846 x 1026 watts!),” says Reaves. “TWELFTH NIGHT will begin at 8 p.m., long before the sun sets. As the outside world fades into darkness, it is the actors’ job to engage the audience’s mind and pull them into the story.

“With lighting, it is my job to engage the audience’s eyes and lead them through the story,” Reaves explains. “That is what we theater artists do, tell stories. Shakespeare offers a great story in TWELFTH NIGHT, [so] there is no need to embellish it. And so we want the story to ring true and natural, why let theatrics get in the way of good theatre?”

TWELFTH NIGHT director David Henderson notes, “This is the first full-on production at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre…. It is a HUGE space. This demands a lot from the entire cast and crew. We have a great set that frames the space and creates a nice area for the actors to ‘play’ …. We have to bring in body mics for the entire cast…. We have to have a lighting design that takes into consideration that it is still daylight when the show starts…. The actors have to adjust to playing in a space that can potentially seat 7,000 people and not the more intimate situations we are used to … and we have to do all of this outside.”

He adds, “It is a wonderful journey and I can’t wait to see our version of this timeless tale come to life in a beautiful space.”

SECOND OPINION: August 22nd Raleigh, NC NEWS & OBSERVER preview by Roy C. Dicks:

The Town of Cary presents TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL, at 8 p.m. Aug. 26-28 in the Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park, 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary, North Carolina 27518.

TICKETS: $20 lawn ($5 students 13-18) and $30 tables, except kids 12 and under free.

BOX OFFICE: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or




NOTE: Gates open at 7 p.m.; and picnics, umbrellas, and blankets and lawn chairs are allowed.

OTHER LINKS: The Play: (Wikipedia). E-Text: (Project Gutenberg). Study Guide: (Utah Shakespearean Festival). The Playwright: (Wikipedia).

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review. To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

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1 Response

  1. I saw opening night with my wife. this is one of the best productions of 12th Night I have ever seen. A beautiful setting and a strong cast. Not to be missed.