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How Many Nights Til’ Showtime?

Posted 03/10/2023 by Akaash Raghunath

Performers rehearse a dramatic scene on TJ’s Michael Palmieri Stage. photo by Shana Saint-Phard

The TJ stage play Twelfth Night nears its opening performance on March 16.

William Shakespeare’s stage play, Twelfth Night, narrates the story of twins Viola and Sebastian, who find themselves separated after a violent shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as a man, and falls in love with the Duke Orsino. Orsino, however, is in love with the countess, Olivia, who falls for Viola after mistaking her for a man. This rather convoluted storyline emphasizes the comedic nature of the play, as the show doesn’t really take itself too seriously. The TJ theatre production crew hopes to make this performance a true spectacle, and, after the success of the fall production of Little Shop of Horrors, it’s easy to see why the community is so excited to see what’s in store. 

The crew will be putting on four performances from Thursday, March 16 through to Saturday the 18. Like most traditional Shakespearean productions, the play will be divided up into five acts, although parts of the original narrative will be cut. In this TJ interpretation, characters such as the Fool and the Fabian – who were both featured in the original play – will be cut. The play will, in all likelihood, be a fair bit shorter than the traditional three hours.

TJ drama and theatre arts instructor Andre Moss will be in charge of the production. Moss has been an educator at TJ for six years now, and he has directed TJ performances for the past two years. Despite this impressive resume, Twelfth Night will be his first Shakespeare play. Moss mentioned that he is looking forward to the historical aspect of the nearly 400 year old comedy. “I think it’s always fun when you get to act out something that is unfamiliar that will surprise audiences,” Moss revealed. As a Shakespearean play, much of the language in Twelfth Night is a modification of old English. Additionally, most of the set design and nearly all of the costumes are based around traditional 17th century fashion, which Moss thought would be an interesting complication to work around.

Each year, TJ hosts two productions: one musical and one play, in no particular order. While it does depend on the nature of each production, Moss revealed that directing the stage play is generally easier than the musical, and Twelfth Night has proven to be no exception. He pointed out the difficulties of coordinating with the live band (which was present in Little Shop of Horrors), as well as the extra strain on the actors, as they were required to memorize various songs in addition to their lines. With that being said, however, organizing an entire stage performance in just two months is no small feat, especially due to the overflow of actors. Though the play features just 15 unique characters, 18 different student actors have been cast, which means that certain roles must be shared. Moss decided that some characters will be played by different actors during different performances, in order to ensure that every student gets a chance to shine. One such student is TJ junior Jesse Mishell, who plays the major role of Duke Orsino. According to him, “the play is an experience like no other; with like-minded peers, I am able to express myself in ways I never thought I could before.”

Twelfth Night is the culmination of months of work. Each and every actor, set designer, and stage hand has been working towards opening night on March 16. Ticket sales will likely spring up soon, with price tags of $10 for adults and $5 for students and youth. “I think everyone should [watch it],” Moss commented. “I think there’s something for everyone. This play is a comedy, so it’s going to entertain audiences.” With the effort our TJ performers have been putting into it, Twelfth Night is sure to be a spectacular play, so, if you’re looking to have some fun, consider stopping by to show your support. It’s sure to be worth your time!