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The Director on Twelfth Night
July 05, 2018
Twelfth Night, or What You Will
'Nothing that is so, is so.'
Whitehall Palace, England the evening of January 6, 1601. Queen Elizabeth is hosting Duke Virginio Orsini of Bracciano for an Epiphany (i.e. Twelfth Night) celebration.
Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men have been commissioned to perform a “mingled comedie with music and dances.”
With only 12 days to complete a new play for this command performance, Shakespeare took some of his popular devices — A shipwreck! Separated twins! A girl dressed as a boy! — wrapped them in a plot as old as Plautus, and tied them up with the ribbons of brilliant characters, inimitable language, and beautiful music.
Thus, Twelfth Night was premiered.
A play written for one night, but still performed more than 400 years later? Why?
I believe the truthful, human comedy of this play is what makes it so appealing: Twelfth Night is not 'Jack shall have Jill, naught shall go ill," there is no fairy dust or witchcraft, but rather, like we all do in our own lives, the characters struggle with who they are and their circumstances and they try their best to sort things out. Twelfth Night begins with a storm, and immediately we understand the world is topsy turvy: like the Saturnalia celebration it was written for, misrule, mistaken identity, and revels are the order of the day.
The storm tosses our twins Viola and Sebastian onto the shore of Illyria, where the local citizens are each journeying through their own personal hurricanes of emotional upheaval— mourning, love, boredom, misplaced affections, jealousy, covetousness, obsession. They each take distinct paths (with many missteps and wrong turnings), and (spoiler alert) all emerge on the other side somehow changed, though not necessarily on track. As in life, some "achieve greatness” and some simply do not. I love this play because it is about finding your place and the convoluted paths we all take. I love the underbelly of melancholy and even cruelty which keeps our characters honest and authentic.
We return to this play today because of what it reveals to us about ourselves: how we love, how we hide, how we cope, how we laugh.
I’m honored to have worked with Lost Nation on this funny, mischievous, romantic, and bright play in this, their 30th Anniversary Season. I thank you for stepping aboard and joining this phenomenal company of theater makers, as together we journey into misrule, mistaken identity, deception, and discovery. Enjoy the show!
- Amanda RaFuse