Long lost twins, mistaken identities, and unrequited love will all play out under the night sky when California State University, Stanislaus’ Shakespeare Under the Stars presents “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will.”
The university’s theatre department is staging the Shakespeare comedy in the amphitheatre April 29, 30, May 1, 2, 3, and 4. The gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the performances start at dusk. All shows are free.
“We are excited to be continuing the tradition of bringing the gift of Shakespeare to the community for the fifth straight year,” said John Mayer, chair of the Department of Theatre.
“Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” tells the story of Viola, who is rescued from a shipwreck and lands on the coast of Illyria. She believes her twin brother Sebastian perished in the same wreck. She disguises herself as a young man by the name of Cesario and goes to work for Duke Orsino. The Duke sends Cesario to woo Olivia for him, but it is Cesario, which is really Viola, that Olivia falls for. The plot takes another twist when Sebastian arrives unbeknownst to Viola. In a subplot, several characters convince Olivia’s snooty servant Malvolio that she has fallen in love for him and have him acting out scenes from love letters they have concocted.
“‘Twelfth Night’ is one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies – mistaken identity, love, and high energy will make this free evening of theatre a night to remember,” said Mayer. “You cannot beat a free evening of Shakespeare under the stars on the beautiful CSU Stanislaus campus.”
The play is being directed by Dan Gately. A Chicago-based actor, Gately returns to the CSU Stanislaus stage after playing the title role in “Macbeth” in 2013, and directing for “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Comedy of Errors.” More recently he performed in the production of “Steinbeck in Vietnam: The Last Published Works of John Steinbeck.”
“I love both experiences,” Gately said of acting and directing. “Both bring joy to an artisit. With acting you have a sense of exploration and you can really let go and fly. With directing you need a game plan, you need a vision.”
Gately has chosen to set the play in the 1920s in Majorca, along the Mediterranean coast.
“It has a Gatesby-esque feel to it,” Gately said of the setting. “It gives it this steamy element and makes for a great place for love to take root and blossom.”
The production features a mix of both professional and guest actors along with student actors.
“In any Shakespearian production there is an uneven playing field in terms of experience,” Gately said. “The range is actually exciting. It opens up new possibilities.”
Playing the role of Viola is Laura Dickinson-Turner. She is a graduated of Stanislaus who went on to join a New York sketch comedy team MyMK47 and co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed the off-off Broadway play “Five Seconds to Air.”
Joel Bond, an actor who has been featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” and the movie short “I Love You More” is portraying Duke Orsino.
The production also stars Katherine Steele Brokaw as Olivia, Paul Romero as Sir Toby Belch and Colton Dennis as Malvolio.
Students will be dressed in costume and mingling with the audience to help create an energy and ambience prior to the show’s start, Mayer said.
The university allows people to bring blankets or low-backed chairs for seating. No outside alcohol or glass allowed. Parking in lot 3 will be free on show nights.