ABOUT THE PLAY
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies replete with mistaken identities, a love triangle, and clowns and buffoons. It was first performed in 1601 or 1602. An operatic version was staged at Drury Lane in 1820. John Gielgud played the character Malvolio in a 1931 production. Gielgud would later direct the play with Laurence Olivier as Malvolio and Vivien Leigh playing Viola and Sebastian in 1955. It’s estimated that Shakespeare’s plays have been featured in 500 films.
Recent films of Twelfth Night include the 1996 film by Trevor Nunn, the 2003 contemporary version by Tim Supple, a recent UK adaptation by Tim Carroll in 2013, and a new Twelfth Night - in post-production as of March 2017 - directed by Ned Record.
Director Roger DeLaurier has decided to set the mythical coastal kingdom of Illyria on the Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea in the era of the cavalier period. “You have these wonderful blends of baroque architecture merging with an Eastern Ottoman flair resulting in an interesting mix of east and west with ornate details and mosaic patters,” DeLaurier explained. Setting in Dalmatia works well with the story. It needs to be a seaside with a bit of the exotic and fantastic.
Costume Designer Arnold Bueso said that applying the Cavalier period to the costumes fits with the themes. “In applying this period to Twelfth Night costumes, we looked at the play’s more whimsical themes: romance and courtship, swashbuckling knights, donning a disguise and living a double life, comedic battle of the sexes, and darker themes like grief and loss, gender identity, and the debate between Malvolio’s puritanism and Sir Toby’s desire to “seize the day”, which was a Cavalier tenet very popular at the time.” Bueso said.
DeLaurier believes some of the funniest scenes in all of Shakespeare’s comedies are in this play, including the duel between Viola and Sir Andrew, and the gulling of Malvolio. “His is one of the hardest journeys anyone takes in the comedies. He has a vain, overblown idea about himself, and he has to come down to earth and get a more realistic perspective about the world and who he is.”
Twelfth Night also has more songs in it than any of the other Shakespeare plays.
Music is the vehicle for the emotional world for joy and love, and grief, and largely for the heartache as Duke Orsino pines with the familiar “If music be the food of love, play on.” Resident Sound Director Elisabeth Weidner will be creating the original compositions for this production. The director concluded, “I think it is some of the most beautiful lyric language in all of Shakespeare’s plays, and I think we’ve chosen a setting for it, and especially in the costumes, that is going to fill the size and space that lyric language wants, as well as function really well for the comedy.”
Viola finds herself swept up on a beach on the fictional kingdom of Illyria after a shipwreck. Fearing her brother Sebastian drowned in the accident, she disguises herself as a young man using the name Cesario so that she can go to work in the house of Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia. Cesario – or Viola – is falling in love with the Duke as she is asked to deliver his love letters to Olivia. And it’s not long before Oliva is falling for Cesario. The residents in Olivia’s household are soon introduced, the drunkard Sir Toby Belch and his friend, the foolish Sir Andrew Aguecheek. There’s the witty Maria, Olivia’s handmaiden, and the clown, Feste. Because he scolds them for their late night merrymaking, these characters plot to make the pompous Malvolio believe that Olivia has fallen in love with him by secretly planting a love letter forged by Maria in Olivia’s handwriting. The letter instructs Malvolio to dress in a most peculiar way, to act with superior self-importance, and smile constantly. The result is that Olivia goes from baffled to believing that Malvolio is suffering from some sort of madness. Olivia hands him over to the conspirators to look after him, who then proceed to lock him up where he is further tormented.
Sebastian, who has been saved from the shipwreck by Antonio arrives in Illyria also believing his sibling, Viola, has drowned. As Sebastian seeks to explore this new land, Antonio reveals that he had committed some piracy against Illyria in the past and is forced to lay low. However, he stumbles upon Viola –as Cesario- and thinks she is Sebastian. He looks to her for help as he’s being arrested. Viola refuses assistance, to which Antonio questions if his rescuing Sebastian from drowning doesn’t deserve some reward. As Antonio is taken away, Viola has hope that her brother might still be alive.
The confusion of mistaken identity, when Sebastian encounters Feste, Sir Andrew, and Sir Toby who all believe him to be Cesario, only escalates when he is introduced to Olivia and whose beauty he is taken with. And Olivia being likewise smitten, soon asks to marry him, and with very little hesitation he agrees. When Cesario and the Duke arrive at Olivia’s house…Cesario being welcomed as Olivia’s husband, thinking her to be Sebastian, suddenly enters Sebastian himself, and all is revealed with Viola as herself and the Duke vowing to marry her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. He had seven brothers and sisters, three of which died in childhood. He received just seven years of formal education having been taken out of school at the age of 14 due to family financial problems. In 1582 he was married to Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior. They had three children, the first born less than seven months after their marriage. Speculation of his activities between leaving school and his marriage range from working as a glover, a sailor or soldier, law clerk, or a teacher. He left his wife and children around 1588 to go work as an actor and playwright in London finding success as both by 1592 when his first play, Henry VI Part 1 was performed. Over the next 21 years he would pen 37 plays and over 150 sonnets. As both an actor and writer, and eventually a shareholder in the Globe Theatre, he made his reputation with plays that ranged from tragedy and comedy to history and romance. Shakespeare’s life and career spanned the reigns of two influential and distinctly different monarchs, Elizabeth and James I. Shakespeare’s company became the King’s Men, achieving the pinnacle of period sponsorship - royal patronage.
Following two and a half decades of financial and artistic success, Shakespeare retired to a country gentleman’s life with a good reputation, a coat of arms, and cash. He died of typhoid fever on April 23, 1616 at the age of 52. According to his will, he left most of his estate to his eldest daughter and her husband and his wife Anne, who was to receive the couple’s “second best bed.” He is buried in the Stratford-upon-Avon’s Holy Trinity Church.
Shakespeare enjoyed great popularity in his lifetime, and over 400 years later, he is still the most produced playwright in the world. He also influenced, perhaps more than anyone else in history, the English language. Words he invented and phrases he coined in his plays are still in common usage today, among them: fashionable, sanctimonious, lackluster, foregone conclusion, in a pickle, wild goose chase, one fell swoop, it’s Greek to me, vanished into thin air, refuse to budge an inch, tongue-tied, hoodwinked, too much of a good thing, suspect foul play, without rhyme or reason, pure as the driven snow.
Some of the popular quotes within Twelfth Night: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” – “If music be the food of love, play on.” – “Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.” – “Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.”-“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”