UKShakes will bring a Shakespeare comedy back to life this weekend in its performances of “Twelfth Night or What You Will.”
“Twelfth Night” is a comedy that employs the themes of mistaken identity and love. In the play, twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked and both believe each other to be dead. Viola enters the nearby city and disguises herself as a boy named Cesario so she can be employed as a servant by Duke Orsino. Orsino sends Cesario to meet a local countess, Olivia, and she falls in love with him. At the same time, Viola, still disguised as Cesario, falls in love with Orsino. In the end, Sebastian reappears and brings with him all sorts of complications to the plot.
Though the play is a comedy, UKShakes chose to put on this play because of the sociopolitical topics that lie within it. The group chooses a Shakespeare play to perform each semester based on the general social and political climate of society, according to director of this production and classics and English senior Sydney Consalvi. “Twelfth Night” serves as the group’s exploration of gender, sexuality and overall identity.
“Many of the characters have moments where they are forced to reevaluate who they think they are,” Consalvi said. “Due to the nature of Viola’s disguise and the ensuing love triangle, this play seemed like the perfect way to explore gender and sexuality on stage. Both in casting the play and in rehearsal, I wanted to look at issues that members of the LGBTQ community face.”
Classics senior Michael Main, who plays the part of a fool named Feste, echoed Consalvi’s emphasis on the importance of this play. He said he thinks many young people will be able to relate to the struggles that the characters face, including self-discovery and the questioning of gender and attraction.
Main also expressed his hope that LGBTQ students would be able to find reassurance from the play that they are not alone in their struggles.
“Hopefully the show will give the audience an idea of how these old plays reflect our history and still positively affect people,” Main said. “‘Twelfth Night’ has provided a fantastic lens through which to view LGBTQ history, and I hope that it can help LGBT+ students feel more comfortable with themselves and their place in the world.”
English sophomore Katie Kirk, who plays the part of a servant named Malvolio, said the audience should be ready for more than just comical entertainment.
“The audience should expect it to be a lot of fun, but I think they’ll also find some moments surprisingly relatable and possibly even emotional—Shakespeare’s words can definitely still resonate with us in today’s world,” Kirk said.
Kirk also said the group aims to leave the audience with two lasting impacts.
“I hope they come out of the play with both a renewed appreciation for Shakespeare’s words and a deeper respect for those in the LGBT community,” Kirk said.
The performances will be held Nov. 10 at 7:30 pm, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 12 at 2:30 p.m. in the Farish Theater, located in the Lexington Public Library. Admission is $5 for students and $7 for the general public.