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Juniata Theatre Modernizes Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' as 1920s Comedy

(Posted October 28, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," a hilarious comedy of mistaken identity, song and revelry, will be given about four centuries of updates as the Juniata College Theatre Department sets their version of the Elizabethan classic in the United States during the Roaring '20s. The play runs from Oct. 22 to 24 at 7:30 p.m. and from Oct. 29 to Oct. 30 at 7:30, with a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 31.

The play will be staged in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus. Tickets for the play are $7 for adults and $4 for students. To inquire about tickets and other information, please call (814) 641-3000.

"I think it is Shakespeare's funniest play, yet it also has a deep vein of heart and heartbreak. It is endlessly complex and it has many roles for young people, which makes it perfect for a college production."
Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theatre

The production is a family-friendly comedy and has one intermission.

"I think it is Shakespeare's funniest play, yet it also has a deep vein of heart and heartbreak," says Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theatre and director of the production. "It is endlessly complex and it has many roles for young people, which makes it perfect for a college production."

The plot of "Twelfth Night" centers on a shipwreck on the shores of an eastern country, stranding a young woman named Viola. She disguises herself as a young man and enters the service of a wealthy landowner, who soon asks his young employee to plead his case for the hand of a recently widowed noblewoman. Subterfuge and mistaken identity are the comic plots that drive the production forward to a hilarious and poignant conclusion.

Director Clarke, who directed "Pippin" at Juniata in 2007 and the college's production of "Angels in America," has staged Juniata's version among the privileged rich in 1927 America. "The play is set in two wealthy households in the original and I'm imagining this is taking place in the estates of Newport or the Hamptons," she says. "Setting it in the 1920s is perfect because that was a time of passion, revelry and love."

In addition to the play's intricate plot, Clarke and the Juniata students in the cast have taken several of the songs sung during the play and recast them in a more modern '20s musical mode. The show also features an ambitious film projection to aid in staging the play's major event that sets the plot in motion. The film is produced and edited by Juniata students.

Clarke also gave her cast and crew a crash course in the Bard at the beginning of the semester as New York stage actor Christopher Patrick Mullen, who has acted in a variety of Shakespearean productions, taught a "Shakespeare bootcamp" for the students.

The members of the cast are: Emily Boresow, a freshman from Leawood, Kan.; Ryan Edley, a freshman from Hershey, Pa.; Ben Mahan, a freshman from Havertown, Pa.; Suzanne Makosky, a sophomore from Greensburg, Pa.; Kevin Whitmire, a sophomore from Enola, Pa.; Nate Frieswick, a sophomore from Bel Air, Md.; Benson Canfield, a sophomore from Littleton, N.H.; Marci Chamberlain, a senior from Williamsburg, Pa.; Quintin Hess, a sophomore from Princeton, N.J.; Alyssa Erb, a senior from Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Brenna Fredrickson, a sophomore from Fairfax Station, Va.; Melissa Mellon, a junior from Patton, Pa.; and Peter Noone, a freshman from Mclean, Va.

The musicians in the cast are: Gerald Prosser, a senior from Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Andrew Orsie, a sophomore from Summit Point, W.Va.; Michael Huffaker, a sophomore from Ithaca, N.Y.; Joyce Lin, a freshman international student from Taiwan; Sara Deppenbrook, a freshman from Beaver Falls, Pa.; Kaetlyn Kuchta, a freshman from Shickshinny, Pa.; Katie Houston, a sophomore from Morrisdale, Pa.; and Hannah Monroe, a senior from Hyattsville, Md.

Three members of The Gravity Project, Juniata's professional theatre ensemble, will design parts of the production. Kristen Morgan is the stage designer; Jennifer Paar is designing costumes; and Maria Shaplin is lighting designer.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.