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APU Theater Kicks Off Season with Twelfth Night

by April Overholt '11

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 5

With an elaborate two-story set, ornate costumes, and an amphitheater overflowing with excited audience members, APU Theater kicked off this year’s season with the production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Theater staff had high expectations for their first performance of the year. “The vision for the show is to get rid of any preconceived notions about Shakespeare and to make it more accessible,” said Jeff Martinez ’01, producer of APU theater and film. And they succeeded, as evidenced by the audience's laughter throughout the show.

Spectators also appreciated the play’s comedic incorporation of contemporary songs—a trio of musicians accompanied cast members in songs from the classic “Kung Fu Fighting” to “Poker Face.” “The contemporary twist on the Renaissance score was great,” said Kendall Paulsen, senior biochemistry major. “It made the play lots of fun.”

A favorite Shakespeare comedy, Twelfth Night was the perfect event for students and members of the community. The plot tells the tale of Viola, a woman who poses as a eunuch in the Duke’s court. While disguised as a man, Viola encounters unexpected twists and turns of fate as the theme of mistaken identity unravels. As APU Theater’s tagline for the show explains, Viola is “dressed as a boy to woo a girl who falls in love with a boy who’s really a girl.” Got it?

Although the classic comedy proved to be a hit, APU Theater hasn’t produced a Shakespeare play since 2005’s The Taming of the Shrew. “We didn’t have the [resources] to support the production,” said Martinez. But with special guest director, Douglas Clayton, Shakespeare was again made possible. Clayton, an accomplished director, producer, and actor based in the Los Angeles area, brought a fight choreographer, dance choreographer, text coach, vocal coach, and musical director to work on the show. The show's costume designer, Chris Speed, junior theater arts major, witnessed firsthand the advantages of having this professional support. “The whole experience really pushed everyone—from the actors to the production team—to grow and expand in our talents," he said.

Cast members put those professional resources to use by carefully executing each line of difficult prose, while using every inch of the amphitheater for sword fights and shipwrecks. “It felt authentically Shakespeare,” said graduate student David McEachron ’11. “The amphitheater makes it easier for the actors to interact with the crowd. It’s a more intimate atmosphere.”

The production of Twelfth Night set the bar high for the 2010–11 theater season, which includes performances of Steel Magnolias, Fiddler on the Roof, and more. Visit APU Theater for more information on upcoming performances.