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Shakespeare's Birthplace - Vermon Shakespeare Company

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The following article appeared on 7/5/06
in Lake Champlain Weekly
By Fred Balzac

Shipwrecked twins, mistaken identity, cross-gender impersonation, and a circular chain of unrequited love: it’s the perfect formula for a classical comedy, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
     Vermont Shakespeare Company (VSC), dedicated to presenting innovative professional productions of classical plays in the beauty of the great outdoors, brings this hilarious riff on love and illusion to Knight Point State Park on Vermont’s Grand Isle Thurs., July 6th, through Sat.,  July 8th, at 6:30 p.m. (802-863-5966; The Lake Champlain Weekly invited members of the company to comment on the production in round-robin fashion:
     VSC Artistic Director Jena Necrason, who plays “Olivia,” on the value of performing or attending Shakespeare’s plays: We have a theater company dedicated to doing Shakespeare’s work quite simply because we love it and it continually challenges and excites us as artists.  The process of working on a Shakespeare play is full of glorious moments and harrowing moments. Quite often you feel like you are on the verge of something, but you are not sure what it is. When the answers come, and you never know when they will come or if they will come, the payoff is incredibly fulfilling and satisfying.

     Audiences should see Shakespeare because it is full of intelligence, humor, and beautiful poetry. We live in a world where entertainment is continuously shrinking into sound bytes, fast vacuous imagery, and storytelling that does not require the engaging of the brain. Theater offers the opportunity to be entertained while engaging the brain and senses at the same time. What could be better than that?!
     Executive Director John Nagle, who directs “Twelfth Night,” on reinterpreting the Bard: When considering a reinterpretation or modernization of a play, one looks for the ideas written by Shakespeare for the audience of his time. Then one looks for a period in history with parallel issues. We often find updating a play to modern times… gives an audience a greater ability to connect with the ideas.
     Another important aspect of our company is to present physical, vital theater. Shakespeare is too often done like “talking heads.” The actors stand in pretty poses and recite the pretty poetry. But theater is not a poetry reading. Shakespeare was written to be performed, not read. You will always find fully physical shows at every Vermont Shakespeare Company production.
     Dan Matisa ("Malvolio") on tips for the audience: The thing to remember in this play is that we're not dealing with realism here; we're dealing with illusion (and often, delusion)…. Illusion reigns here, on all levels, and it is one of the major themes of this play.
     Look for the moments in this play in which characters are made to believe things that the audience knows are not true, in which they are tricked or fooled or are having "the wool pulled over their eyes" by others, and, most importantly, in which they're pulling the wool over their own eyes, thus convincing themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, that illusion is reality. The comedy in the play comes from this conflict between illusion and reality and from the wacky characters caught up in it. The comic payoffs are huge, as a result….
     People who are already familiar with "Twelfth Night" are in for a real
treat, because our director and designers have put together a stunning,
highly original, "Roaring 20's"-style production, which sheds new light on
both the comic and dramatic themes in this play.
     Jenny Sheffer Stevens (“Feste”) on the importance of each role in the play: What Shakespeare has done especially well, throughout all his plays, is to make sure that each character in a story is not only functional in the telling of it, but is also its own quite brilliant gem. Now some are big flashy Tiffany diamonds and some are little flecks of mica, but they are all integral to the story and great, fun, meaty work for an actor.
     Aidan Koehler (“Viola”) on the difference between performing in North Hero, VT, and New York City: It's quieter. But there's also the sense that whatever grows up there does so because the community wants it to. In New York, the spectrum of theater is vast and it is beautiful; the arts are everywhere but that sense of community is not….
     All the people I met last year were so friendly and encouraging and giving. I absolutely got the sense that they, as individuals, had decided that they were going to have the arts in their community.
      But really, more than anything else, waking up in the morning and going for a swim in the East River is not as enticing a proposition as a dip in Lake Champlain!  LCW
Fred Balzac covers theater for the Lake Champlain Weekly.

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