(left to right) Kalina Koch as Sebastian, Isaiah Johnson as Malvolio, Emma Farrenkopf as Olivia in The Ohio State Department of Theatre’s Production of Twelfth Night. Courtesy of J. Briggs Cormier

Ohio State’s Drake Performance and Event Center will be serving as the first stage that students from the Ohio State Department of Theatre will be performing Shakespeare’s “12th Night” on their school tour.

This show is part of the department’s Shakespeare School Tour that has been going on since 2010. This program took inspiration from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s nationwide school tour that focused on educating young kids about Shakespeare.

The school tour program focuses on putting on shortened productions of Shakespeare plays for local elementary, middle school and high school students. Students also lead group discussions and activities to help kids understand more about the plays they watched.

“They really enjoy [the plays],” said Lesley Ferris, a Department of Theatre professor and “12th Night” director. “It’s amazing, the students get really into it.”

“12th Night” is one of Shakespeare’s famous comedies, and the play stars twins Sebastian and Viola played by Kalina Koch and Joelle Odoguardi respectively, who are separated after a shipwreck. When Viola dresses up as her brother, Sebastian, to get work, the situation quickly devolves into a comedy. It was turned into the movie “She’s the Man” in 2006 and has had many different settings and interpretations during its many runs across the world.

“Shakespeare is different with different directors and different casts,” said Koch, a fourth-year double major in theatre and business. “You can see two different versions of ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and get two totally different interpretations.”

This year’s cast has put an emphasis on the aspect of bullying in the play, and highlights the mistreatment of one of the characters, Malvolio. Malvolio is insulted by almost every cast member in the show, which members of the cast said was a focus of this particular production.

“We really focused on the bullying aspect, with the character — Malvolio — he gets picked on the whole show,” Koch said. “I hope that kids can come away with this message against bullying.”

Ohio State’s performance of “12th Night” will be using the Caribbean festival of Carnival as a backdrop for this comedic series of misunderstandings. Carnival is famous for its bright colors, joyful dancing and elaborate costumes. The festival’s focus on costuming and masks make it a thematically appropriate backdrop for Shakespeare’s misadventures.

“The thing about Carnival, and the festivals of the European continent, was that it was an event that was outside of the normal daily routine,” Ferris said. “It’s a world turned upside down.”

The actors perform, lead workshop discussions and activities, set up the performances and handle all props and scene changes. One goal for Ohio State students is to learn how touring in a theater group works, and to help them connect with the importance of theater education. For students seeing the shows, the goal is to help them better understand Shakespeare, whose language can be difficult to understand.

“I think that with Shakespeare, you have to see it to really get it,” said Koch, explaining that it is possible for kids to love and understand Shakespeare. “I love Shakespeare, I was that kid in high school that was like ‘Shakespeare, yes! Finally!”

It’s not just theatre majors in the cast, but students from all different departments across campus. Auditions for Department of Theatre shows are open for all students at Ohio State. Several of the students in the cast of “12th Night” are freshmen with little previous experience in theater or with Shakespeare.

There will be two shows on Friday at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., two shows on Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m. and one final show on Sunday at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for the general public.