Ye olde Shakespeare gets twisty

The Aquila Theater Company presents William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" Sunday at the Phillips Center.

RICHARD TERMINE/Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 12:18 a.m.



"Twelfth Night"

  • WHAT: Modern adaptation of Shakespeare comedy
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free pre-performance discussion starts at 6:45 p.m.
  • WHERE: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road, UF campus
  • TICKETS: $20-$30, available at (T) and at the box office (352-392-2787)

  • Twins are separated in a shipwreck. They assume the other is dead and carry on with their lives in the mystical world of Illyria. In this plot, there's also a wild case of mistaken identity and even some cross-dressing.
    Oh yeah, one more thing: It's a Shakespeare's play.
    If high school left you feeling bogged down by the "thou arts" and the "hast thous" of Shakespeare, fear ye not. The Aquila Theatre Company is touring with The Bard's "Twelfth Night," and the New York City-based company prides itself on making Shakespeare relevant and accessible to today's audiences.
    The company, which performed "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Gainesville in 2003, returns to the Phillips Center Sunday with "Twelfth Night," an adaptation branded with Aquila's modern twists.
    "I think what they've done in terms of making Shakespeare modern to the audience is incredible," said Michael Blachly, director of University of Florida Performing Arts. "I think 'Twelfth Night' is really going to work well."
    How modern? Here's a sneak peek: Viola and Sebastian, the twins, wear doublets with modern shirts and leather pants.
    Elizabethan music is performed on harpsichord, flute and harp but is backed by a drum-and-bass beat.
    The text for this comedy remains as Shakespeare wrote it in - some scholars believe - 1601, but the edgier elements "open the door and make people feel like they are watching a modern piece," said Director Robert Richmond.
    "What I think happens with Shakespearean language is that, because it all sounds complicated, people don't realize that originally when this was performed, particular scenes might have been extremely funny to people of that time," he added. "So we will research why that joke was funny for that time."
    That approach has gained much attention on the Shakespeare circuit.
    "I've been involved in Shakespeare plays from the traditional to the weird and everything in between," said Louis Butelli, who plays Feste the jester in the production. "The clearest experience that I've had with the language has been with (Aquila). They have a real dedication to communicating these excellent, excellent stories."
    Aquila, the Company in Residence at New York University's Center for Ancient Studies, is a physical troupe; actors must be adept at movement and transforming their bodies into objects. And this play, Butelli noted, will be no different.
    "I think people are going to be surprised by how physical the play is," he said.
    In "Twelfth Night," Viola falls in love with the Duke of Illyria but, while dressed as a man, she becomes a messenger who conveys the Duke's love to Olivia. In an odd love triangle, however, Olivia falls in love with Viola instead - believing, of course, that she is a he.
    "The cross-dressing side of the play is extremely funny and allows us to look very hard at the gender roles of Shakespearean times and how we view women today," Richmond said. "Viola is able to speak to us directly about the difficulties she's having in being a man in that situation."
    There will be a free pre-performance discussion at 6:45 p.m., likely with one or more cast members. The discussion will give the audience an opportunity to learn more about the show and the theater company itself.

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