Ramapo’s run of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” kicked off last Friday night in the Berrie Center. Directed by talented professor of theater Maria Vail and featuring an all-student cast, the production is a phenomenal modern reimagining of the classic play.
The romantic comedy follows two siblings, Viola and Sebastian, who become separated after a shipwreck leaves them both stranded. Believing her brother to have died in the accident, Viola presents herself as a man and falls in love with the Duke Orsino. Simultaneously, the Lady Olivia develops an attraction to Viola, not realizing she is a girl. The show includes an abundance of drinking, crass humor and cross-dressing.
The actors said adapting their body language to fit their characters proved to be the hardest part in preparing for opening night. Amber Walker, senior contract major studying theater and communication arts, who played Viola in the production, said that “adapting her movements to be less feminine” was difficult.
“Movement reveals a lot about the character,” Walker said. The actors worked with a movement director to increase the believability of all the actors’ performances.
“This was the first Shakespeare show I’ve ever done,” said Ricardo Davis, who plays Duke Orsino. All of the actors agreed that researching and watching film adaptations assisted them in developing their character’s behavior.
While the actors were slightly fearful about mastering such dynamic roles, the actors said Vail is a dedicated Shakespeare fanatic who worked countlessly with them in order to ensure a seamless performance. It was as important to her as it was to them that the actors portray these iconic characters justly.
Another difficulty with a show like this is mastering the Shakespearean language barrier.
“The monologues would just start to flow after a while,” said Akdeniz Rysmendieva, a sophomore majoring in communication arts with a concentration in journalism, who played Lady Olivia, when asked about memorizing foreign sentence structures.
What made this take on the medieval play new and modern was the heavy inspiration gained from ‘70s glam rock and jazz music. This effect was created by colorful costume choices and through the playing of an electric guitar in the background of certain scenes. Two contradicting eras, which one would assume would clash with the nature of the show, only elevated the viewing experience.
Sound designer Emily Schider, a senior theater major with concentrations in design/technology and directing/stage, discussed the production’s portrayal of Duke Orsino.
“[We wanted him] to be cool, someone Viola would fall in love with,” Schider said. Orsino is dressed as an androgynous rock star in the mold of Prince or David Bowie.
Sound is an extremely important aspect of the production, according to Schider.
“I worked with the music consultant to figure out what the musicians could do with certain objects to create sound,” Schider said. The actors utilize different objects to create remarkable effects, like rubbing on a balloon to create the noise of scrubbing.
The actors, director and production team succeeded in constructing an entertaining and fresh lens through which visitors to the Berrie Center’s Sharp Theater can view Shakespeare.