Twelfth Night challenges actors, audience

Along with the unique language and storyline of the “Twelfth Night” winter play directed by theater teacher Cynthia Burrows is a physical, tai-chi based rehearsal warmup called Eight Pieces of Silk that fuses the breath with movement.

“[Eight Pieces of Silk] helps you become focused and feel in control of your body and breath,” Megan Rivkin ’16 said. “As a group, on the inhale, we raise our arms over our head, and on the exhale, we drop them and let them hang. We do it so often [during rehearsals] that a lot of us run through our lines while doing it.”

Not only do the rehearsals incorporate unique ways of engaging students, “Twelfth Night” also explores unique themes not traditionally found in romantic comedies including insanity and the questioning of sexuality. “Twelfth Night” is set in Illyria where the young aristocrat Viola played by Rivkin becomes separated from her twin brother Sebastian after a shipwreck. Unexpected complications rise after the Duke begins to foster feelings for Cesario, Viola’s male disguise.

“It’s not your Romeo and Juliet where your heart’s rooting for Viola and the Duke,” Rivkin said. “Within it, there’s so many individual stories within the play that there isn’t even really a clear protagonist or antagonist. You could make the case that I’m the protagonist of the story, but you also could say I’m the antagonist to Lady Olivia.”

Viola encounters groups including noble Lady Olivia’s circle, her uncle Sir Toby’s group of pranksters and Duke Orsino’s group. Intertwined within all the major groups is some who consider the antagonist, Malvolio, played by Barrett Winston ’16.

“Everyone loves to hate the villain,” Winston said. “That’s why I think being empathetic is the most important trait an actor can have. I don’t see myself doing the things Malvolio does, but what I can connect with is being so loyal to something that you just want what’s best for that. Having an understanding allows for the character to be properly shown.”

With such a complex storyline comes great challenge to the actors and actresses. Both Rivkin and Winston said the most difficult part was working with the language; however, Winston said the language is also what makes the show so impressive.

“It takes a lot of time outside of class to prepare the lines and be at all the rehearsals,” Burrows said. “All of this doesn’t happen without passion.”

During the final tech rehearsal and before shows, the cast will channel their energy once again but this time in a circle where students pass on positive thoughts. Students squeeze their partner’s hands until everyone has shared in the circle, fostering a unity among the group.

“Twelfth Night” played at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday of Mar. 11-12 in the West Auditorium.