UFV Theatre is warming up the winter season with a modernized take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night.
Filled with music and dance, Shakespeare’s play about love begins with the unforgettable line: “If the music be the food of love, play on!”
The play’s story centres on the twins Viola and Sebastian (played by Jessica Milliken and Dyllan Egilson), who are separated in a shipwreck, and cast ashore in a strange land. Viola disguises herself as a boy to gain entry to the court of Duke Orsino (Eli Funk), and soon finds herself entangled in a comic web of mistaken identities and misplaced love.
Twelfth Night was originally written to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, an annual festival in Shakespeare’s day, dedicated to revelry and misrule. On this day, the world was turned upside-down, as servants dressed up as their masters, men as women, and so forth.
Taking a contemporary twist on this ancient celebration, the play’s directors, Raina von Waldenburg, Bruce Kirkley, and Rae MacEachern-Eastwood, are using Burning Man as the conceptual inspiration for the show.
Burning Man, an annual festival held in the Nevada desert, promotes values of artistic self-expression, community, total inclusion and self-reliance.
The Feast of Epiphany and the Burning Man festival follow very much the same ideas of joy and release, Kirkley explained.
“People get together and break out of their nine to five existence. They come together and unleash their creative selves,” he said, which is shown in the production through dance, song, costuming and more.
The show also employs a new approach to acting called Viewpoints. Working together, the directors and cast have composed an innovative staging vocabulary that gives the actors considerable freedom to create in the moment of performing.
They can use that agency to play with certain elements of performance, while still working within the text, characters and situations that the story demands.
“This show is a vibrant collaboration on the part of all the artists involved, both onstage and off,” says von Waldenburg, “that celebrates revelry, community, creativity, and most of all, love.”
The design team has approached their work in a similar way. Set designer Parjad Sharifi has created a minimalist, flexible set that allows the actors to rearrange set pieces to suit their own purposes.
“What interests me most,” says Sharifi, “is to see how the actors manipulate and ultimately transform these elements into stage metaphors. Their work expands and completes my work as a designer.”
The Twelfth Night production team involves many senior students in leadership roles, including Rae MacEachern-Eastwood (Co-Director), Kyra Esau (Choreographer), Emily Eggert-Botkin (Music Director), Ally Schuurman (Dramaturge and Vocal Coach), Calvin Baker (Lighting Design), Matt Piton (Sound Design), Natasha Beaumont and Desiree Hale (Costume Design), and Paul Sawyer (Props Design).
Twelfth Night is produced by the University of the Fraser Valley Theatre Department. Matinee and evening performances run from March 3 to 20 at the UFV Performance Theatre (45635 Yale Road). Visit ufv.ca/theatre for the full schedule.
Purchase your tickets online, via the Box Office email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 604-795-2814.