On March 1-5, 7-12, and 14-19, PlayMakers Repertory Company will present an all-star modern-dress production of Twelfth Night, a rollicking 17th century romantic comedy by English poet and dramatist William Shakespeare (1564-1616), in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art. Originally written for the close of the Christmas season, circa 1601-02, Twelfth Night, or What You Will soon became — and continues to be — one of the Immortal Bard’s most popular plays.
“I probably first encountered Twelfth Night in college,” speculates director Jerry Ruiz. “In fact, I played the Orsino role in a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night written in the 1960s, Your Own Thing. It’s a delightful little Off-Broadway cult classic, very much of its time, complete with 1960s lingo. But there’s also significant parts of the original Shakespeare woven into the songs and dialogue.”
He adds, “Twelfth Night was also one of the first professional productions I worked on — as an assistant director — back in 2001. I’ve since worked on it as a composer (2007) and directed it for the first time in 2010. So, I’ve gotten to know it pretty well over the years!”
Ruiz, who serves as associate artistic director for UNC’s professional-theater-in-residence, says, “I think [Twelfth Night] is one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies and a true ensemble comedy. The collection of characters and variety of tones and storylines makes it truly a joy to direct.”
He notes, “There’s also a great quote I came across recently, from Spanish playwright (and Shakespeare’s contemporary) Pedro Calderón de la Barca [1600-81]: ‘Love that is not madness is not love.’ [That’s v]ery true, and very apropos to what makes this play so fun to work on.”
When the curtain rises on Twelfth Night, Jerry Ruiz says, “A young woman named Viola [played by Allison Altman] is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and separated from her twin brother Sebastian [Schuyler Scott Mastain], who she fears has drowned. She disguises herself as a man [and rechristens herself ‘Cesario’] to work in the court for Duke Orsino [Myles Bullock].
“[‘Cesario’] serves as his messenger to [Duke Orsino’s] beloved, the Countess Olivia [Jenny Latimer], who quickly falls in love with [‘him’],” Ruiz says. “When Sebastian arrives in Illyria, much confusion and hilarity ensues.
“Meanwhile,” Jerry Ruiz points out, “Olivia’s hard-partying uncle Sir Toby Belch [Bradford Cover] and his partners-in-crime — Maria [Julia Gibson], Sir Andrew Aguecheek [Geoffrey Culbertson], and Feste [Michael Keyloun] — play a cruel prank on Olivia’s power-hungry steward, Malvolio [Ray Dooley].”
“The challenge with Shakespeare is always to make the greatness of his plays come alive for a contemporary audience now 400 years removed from the original writing of the play” says Jerry Ruiz. “You have to get super specific in the acting and storytelling to make sure that the story comes through clearly.”
In addition to director Jerry Ruiz, the PRC creative team for Twelfth Night includes PlayMakers Rep producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch, composer/music director Jack Herrick, choreographer Tracey Bersley, production manager Michael Rolleri, scenic designer Tim Mackabee, lighting designer Porsche McGovern, costume designer Anne Kennedy, assistant to the costume designer Danielle Soldat, sound designer Anna Warda Aslex, voice coach John Patrick, dramaturg Adam Versényi, stage manager Charles K. Bayang, and assistant stage manager Hannah-Jean Farris.
“For the setting of our production, we gravitated towards a mid-20th century Mediterranean feel,” says director Jerry Ruiz. “The body of work of lifestyle photography Slim Aarons proved a huge inspiration in creating the world of our production. The set — which serves primarily as the Countess Olivia’s glamorous mansion — is inspired by some of the photos we looked at during our research.”
He adds, “Costume designer Anne Kennedy also drew on that research for some glamorous and evocative costumes that bring to mind late 1950s/early 1960s European fashion, including figures like Grace Kelly, David Niven, and others.”
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents TWELFTH NIGHT at 7:30 p.m. March 1 and 2 Previews, 7:30 p.m. March 3 Opening Night, 7:30 p.m. March 4, 2 p.m. March 5, 7:30 p.m. March 7-10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. March 11, 2 p.m. March 12, 7:30 p.m. March 14-18, and 2 p.m. March 19 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15-$48 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 general admission ($10 for students with ID) on Community Night (Tuesday, March 7th and 14th).
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be a gala opening-night performance, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3rd.
NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions, with members of the cast and creative team, following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 12th, performances.
NOTE 6: The North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show Mindplay psychoanalytic discussions after the show’s 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19th, performances.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will (c. 1601-02 comedy): http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/TN/ (Internet Shakespeare Editions) and and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/TN_M/scene/1.1/ (Internet Shakespeare Editions).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/study-guides/twelfth-night-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)