Twelfth Night brings comedy, romance to festival

By Lauren Ringger | 9/28/11 11:49pm


GVL / Allison Young
Dress rehearsal for Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”

by Allison Young / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Throw out the memories of dull high school readings — this year’s main stage performance at the Grand Valley State University Shakespeare Festival is a familiar romantic comedy.

GVSU will present William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” one of Shakespeare’s most well-loved, lighthearted works.

“It should be really fun — it’s a very funny play,” said James Bell, director of the Shakespeare Festival. “It has a mixture of students and local actors. I think students will come and they will be able to understand what is going on in the play, the thought is very clear, the language is pretty clear and it is very funny. It’s a romantic comedy, so I think students will enjoy that.”

The plot of the play is based around two twins, Sebastian and Viola, who are separated by a terrible shipwreck. They are rescued and brought to mythical Illyria, but neither knows the fate of the other. The plot was modernized several years ago in the popular Amanda Bynes movie, “She’s the Man.”

“I think that students who don’t really like Shakespeare or don’t appreciate the language in it probably don’t have enough experience in the right setting,” Bell said. “A lot of times they know Shakespeare from reading it in an English class and Shakespeare never wrote his plays to be read — he wrote them to be seen and heard, and it’s different to watch Shakespeare than it is to read Shakespeare. You have the vocal inclinations of the actors, you have the body language and you see the context of why things are said. Students will understand the plays much more, they will get the jokes and they will get the language. It is a really different experience to come out and watch Shakespeare, especially a comedy like this. I think they will find it much more interesting. There is a lot more to Shakespeare than reading ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in high school.”

This year, equity actor Paul Riopelle, who has appeared before in the Shakespeare Festival, will be performing.

“This is my fourth season with the Shakespeare festival and I will come back anytime they ask me because I always get reminded when I come here of the early passion that I had myself as a young actor, when I work with the students here,” Riopelle said. “Sometimes when you’ve been in the profession for a little while, you can start to take things for granted. When I return to a program like this where the student actors are sometimes doing it for the first time, or it is fairly new to them, their enthusiasm is contagious. It reminds me of the passion that I have for the theater. The novelty of performing these plays in front of an audience is really refreshing and regenerating for me.”

The play will present on Friday, Saturday, Oct. 6, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. Student tickets cost $6.

“I think live theater is always great,” said Jack Lane, box office and house manager at Louis Armstrong Theatre. “It’s different every night. It is so much better than just watching a movie because every night is different. It is not so static. I think Shakespeare today, is rarely performed, so having a Shakespeare festival here in itself is unique. Plus, the theater students here, whether they are on stage or backstage doing costumes, everybody is participating and it really turns out to be quite a professional production. Not everybody has the opportunity to view live Shakespeare, but it is great for educational purposes and experience and just kind of broadening your experience base.”

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