Posts Tagged ‘Lady Gaga’

On March 25th, 2010, we held our first staged reading: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  You’ll find the cast list and program notes below.  We should have offered special thanks to Lady Gaga, but we didn’t know that her music would save the show.  Laughter was scarce for the first two acts: a death knell for this comedy.  It seemed that Shakespeare was a bit inaccessible for our largely undergraduate audience.  They were uncomfortable.  And dangerously silent.  Shakespeare was “high” culture, something you watch silently and respectfully: something you endure.  So when Mark Hughes Cobb (playing Feste) prepared to walk onstage for act three, he was a bit desperate to finally force a laugh from the crowd.  “How does that Lady Gaga song go?” he asked before leaving the wings.

So it was that Feste began act 3 by humming “Bad Romance.”  The Bama Theatre seemed to crack open with laughter, and the rest of the show went beautifully.  I’m sure that good old Bill was dancing along in his grave.  Laughter.  Spectacle.  Engagement.  That’s culture.

Thanks, Lady Gaga, for inaugurating Improbable Fictions.

The Players

ORSINO, Duke of Illyria…………………………………………….. Nic Helms

VIOLA, in love with the Duke……………………………… Jean Fuller-Scott

OLIVIA, a rich Countess of Illyria…………………………….. Aubrey Dean

SIR TOBY BELCH, Uncle to Olivia………………………. Charles Prosser

SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK, a Knight…………………. Regan Stevens

MARIA, Olivia’s Woman…………………………………. Marian Mantovani

MALVOLIO, Steward to Olivia………………………………… Nick Shabel

FESTE, a Clown, Servant to Olivia………………….. Mark Hughes Cobb

SEBASTIAN, Brother to Viola……………………………… Coston Perkins

ANTONIO, a Sea Captain………………………………. Wescott Youngson

FABIAN, Servant to Olivia……………………………………….. Steve Burch

A Gentleman, A Sea Captain, An Officer………………… Deborah Parker

Reading Directed and Produced by…………. Nic Helms and Alaina Jobe

Stage Manager………………………………………………………….. Scott Free

If this were played upon on a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.

Shakespearean comedies rely on certain conventions: disguises, jokes, romance, and a plot that involves a great deal of confusion, misunderstandings that must be unraveled and set right by the end of the play. Twelfth Night is no exception, a comedy that is dependent on mistaken identity. Nearly every thread of the play can be traced back to Viola’s decision to disguise herself as the young man, Cesario. As Cesario, she becomes Orsino’s confidante, which leads to her falling in love with him. As Cesario, she woos Olivia on behalf of Orsino, causing Olivia to fall in love with her. Her disguise is the root of Antonio’s confusion, Sir Andrew’s challenge, and Feste’s frustration. The alternate title of the play, What You Will, invites the audience to interpret the events, the characters, and the situations in Twelfth Night as they see fit, either as straight comedy, with a few gags and a madcap plot, or as something deeper, a story of love and loss.

And the play is, of course, both at once, a genuinely funny romp onstage and yet a means of considering the depth and feeling of love. Viola and Sebastian are touchingly reunited, both certain the other was dead. New relationships have blossomed by the end of the play: Olivia and Viola get their men and Sir Toby marries Maria. And yet we cannot help but question the authenticity of the loves that we see, as they are, in some respects, too convenient or perhaps even counterfeit, as untrue as Viola’s disguise. Is this really happily ever after? And what of Malvolio, threatening revenge after the cruel trick that Sir Toby and the others have played on him? Is this a happy ending for Antonio, who is cast off by Sebastian? Taking the play as we will is the challenge of Twelfth Night, which invites us to consider the nature of love in a more critical light, to take note of its many forms and disguises, and ultimately, to decide if what we see onstage is genuine or an improbable fiction.

~ Alaina Jobe ~