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Ohio State Theatre Department, Royal Shakespeare Company to adapt ‘Twelfth Night’ onstage

Courtesy of Matt Hazard

Some readers think tackling Shakespeare’s plays can be like learning a new language.
That is something the Ohio State Department of Theatre understands and is looking to disprove in its latest collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“Shakespeare was not meant to be read quietly in a library by yourself. It was meant to be performed with other people,” said Genevieve Simon, a third-year in theater and German.
Simon plays Feste in “Twelfth Night,” which follows Viola and Sebastian, twin siblings who assume the other has died in a ship wreck. Struggling in new territory after the wreck, Viola passes herself off as a man and soon falls in ove with the local duke, Orsino.
Members of the OSU Department of Theatre are hoping to embody this idea in their adapted version of “Twelfth Night,” with performances scheduled Friday through Sunday at the Lincoln Theatre.
Play director Tory Matsos said the play is the latest in an ongoing collaboration between OSU and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Matsos said members of the theater department are trained by the Royal Shakespeare Company in an educational approach called Stand Up for Shakespeare. The program encourages children and young adults to experience the works of Shakespeare by “doing it on their feet, seeing it live and starting it earlier,” according to its website.
Matsos has been preparing for the production since the summer. She said the play was cast in October, and actual rehearsals began this semester.
However, that left only about four weeks for actual rehearsals before performances began. This is much shorter than the seven or eight weeks of rehearsal time that standard plays allow, Simon said.
“I would say the short amount of time is a challenge, definitely,” Simon said. “We want to be as prepared as we can (be) before a performance.”
Matsos said ensuring that the actors really understand the plot and what their lines mean is essential to the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of a Shakespeare production.
“It’s for the actors to make clear with their bodies and their voices, their tools onstage, what the story is,” she said.
This particular version of “Twelfth Night” has been condensed, Matsos said, “but the language is just as Shakespeare wrote it.”
Simon said one of the functions of the shortened version is allowing the cast to go to different schools and perform the play for students. After this weekend’s performances, the cast will take its production to elementary through high schools in the area.
During these performances, when the play is over, the actors will lead students in activities that help them understand the plot of the play and get involved with it, Simon said.
“I think that my favorite part is going to be going to schools and just seeing the kids’ reactions to what we’re doing,” she said.
Heather Sibley, a third-year in social work, said she’s unsure whether seeing a Shakespeare play performed live will make the language easier to understand.
“You can’t pause it,” she said. “There are pros and cons.”
Matsos said that while this version has been adapted for young audiences, she hopes everyone will enjoy the show.
“What we’re trying to say is that, ‘Hey, this is accessible and enjoyable for everyone,'” Matsos said. “We’re certainly hoping that everybody comes out and has a great time. I think it’s a fun show and that whether you’re 9 or 99, you’re going to enjoy it.”
Performances are scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students and children. They can be purchased online through TicketMaster or at the OSU Theatre Box Office located in the Drake Performance and Event Center.

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