Eastern Theater is gearing up for its latest production: William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Many of us are familiar with the basic story—a girl disguises herself as her twin brother, who she believes to have died in a devastating ship wreck, in order to start a new life in a foreign country. Unfortunately, the noble lady she serves falls in love with her, thinking her to be a man. From that point, all manner of hilarity ensues.
Eastern’s production takes this classic story and sticks it right in the middle of the Civil War. It retains Shakespeare’s original text, but makes many changes to suit the setting. Viola and Sebastian are free African Americans from the North trying to escape to Liberia, but not long into their voyage they end up shipwrecked and separated in Georgia. Viola disguises herself as her brother, calls herself Cesario and goes to work for Olivia, the owner of a destroyed plantation. Olivia falls in love with Cesario and a series of comical misunderstandings occur.
While sticking with the text’s comic flair, the play will also deal very seriously with the issue of racism.
Directed by Mark Hallen, Eastern’s “Twelfth Night” is the culmination of years of creativity and research. Mistaken identity is still a major theme, but this performance will also highlight the issues of surviving disaster and romantic love.
Junior Kaitlyn Albone, a History Education major and the
play’s Props Designer, said, “This rendition is a wonderful reinvention of Shakespeare’s original story. … The themes of what was happening [during the Civil War] and the themes of the original story gel very nicely together so that the story ties in very realistically with actual history.”
Albone could not give away too many details about the production itself, but she did say that there will be sword fights and elaborate sets.
Albone’s role is to research the Civil War period and figure out what props are needed in order to match the circumstances and each character’s personality. “It’s my job to figure out what we need to create the world of the Civil War on stage and then to find it, or build it if I can’t find it,” she said.
Albone encourages Eastern students to see the play because it does not conform to what people typically picture when they think of Shakespearian productions. The costumes have no Victorian frills and the accents lack the stereotypical Shakespearian-British panache. There is only the text, interwoven with history.
“Most classrooms cover the Civil War as a thing of the past … but this play puts the audience right in the middle of it and allows them to really experience it for themselves, without injury of course.”
“Twelfth Night” will open on November 9th at 8pm in the McInnis Auditorium and run through November 13th.