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Putting a little steampunk in Shakespeare

By Sean Sullivan, May. 14, 2014 —

The Shakespeare Company is rounding out its 2013–14 season with a production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Vertigo Theatre from May 15–24.

While the first two productions of the season — Titus Andronicus and The Winter’s Tale — are not as frequently produced as many of Shakespeare’s more well-known plays, Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. The production comes three weeks after Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on April 23.

“I found out from a bunch of people in the cast that it’s their favourite Shakespeare [play],” says Lara Schmitz, general manager of The Shakespeare Company and the actor who plays Viola in the production.

Twelfth Night follows a complicated love triangle which occurs after Viola and her twin brother are separated during a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria. Viola disguises herself as a boy named Cesario and enters the service of Duke Orsino. She becomes entangled in Orsino’s courtship of a noble lady named Olivia who quickly falls in love with Cesario.

Schmitz says it is Shakespeare’s most popular comedy because it combines the complex love triangle of a romantic comedy with the intense pranks and tomfoolery typical of a Judd Apatow movie.

As for her own character, Viola, Schmitz says people fall in love with her because she is weird, has a fiery passion and a habit of forgetting about social norms.

“She just creates such complex situations for herself without meaning to,” Schmitz says.

For this year’s production, Schmitz says the director, Kate Newby — artistic director of Calgary International Children’s Festival — has developed an eclectic costume style that combines steampunk with a bit of bohemian flare while using a sparse stage design.

Schmitz describes the costumes as a “kind of old-school but kind of futuristic” mix of western inspirations and steampunk style.

“Some people are going to have some goggles and watches and [character] Sir Andrew Aguecheek has these little glasses,” Schmitz says.

Schmitz says she was excited about Newby’s decision to go with a stage that was theatre- in-the-round — where the audience surrounds the stage on all sides.

“The stage that we get to perform on is quite small and the audience is very close,” Schmitz says. “The audience is going to be right there with us.”


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