Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twelfth Night - Opening Thoughts

Greetings, my fellow bardnuts. Make that, Season's Greetings! How appropriate that we read Twelfth Night at this time of year, yes?

My first exposure to this play was via a lovely production at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. The director set it in the Victorian era, so costume fabrics were luxuriant. The set included a very tall Christmas tree and all the details and elegance of a Victorian home (the inside theatre allows for more set decoration). Truly a treat for the eyes. To this day, when I read this play, I can still envision the lovely young woman who played Viola and exactly how Malvolio looked in his ridiculous yellow stockings. The production was clearly strong enough to shape my own directing efforts when I worked with a group of juniors on a Super Saturday project a number of years ago. But this play, although similar in plot to other comedies with twins, mistaken identities, and cross-dressing, renders itself more mature, more sophisticated than Shakespeare's earlier comedies. How did this evolution happen?

Thoughts to ponder as we embark:

1. The role of Malvolio is troubling to me. Details are wrapped up so neatly at the end of this play with the exception of Malvolio. Is he really all that BAD, as the root of his name suggests? Or is it possible for his character to elicit sympathy?

2. Compare/contrast Viola and Olivia. I would cast my vote for Viola as one of Shakespeare's most intriguing heroines. :-)

3. Ahhhh, the language of love. It's all here ― from the lyrical (gpf, I know exactly which line you will use here!) to the absurd.

4. The role of the fool compared to the fool we see in King Lear. Does comedy dictate a different social commentary than tragedy?

5. And last, but certainly not least, I will be teaching this play in January. Gimme some favorite teachable moments, or the "stuff" I can't possibly leave out.

Cheers to all!

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