Shakespeare in the Era of Gatsby and Gangsters

In the Steinman Theatre, it’s as if Calvin Coolidge is in the White House, the Talkies are all the rage in cinemas, and the stock market is climbing toward a permanent plateau of prosperity.

The last LCDS Theater production was the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a period piece and homage set in the 1920s. Director Kristin Wolanin decided to stay in the era of Art Deco and women’s suffrage for tonight’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday April 25, 26 and 27, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. Advanced tickets are $5 and available here, or $10 at the door.

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“‘Drowsy’ had a very specific look and feel, and this show, while still set in the same time, shows a totally different aspect of that time,” Wolanin said. “This is the 20s of Gatsby, and gangsters, and flappers, and I wanted to explore the different aspects of the decade during the same school year.”

With a sparse, Bourbon Street-inspired set, the show uses the 20s setting not just because the costumes are fun (they are) or because Wolanin wanted to show off her new, old Victrola (she does), but because it offers her cast — all students in her year-long Shakespeare course — a way to engage with the material in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.

“What I want is for the actors to explore the time period. For example, women got the right to vote. How does living through that kind of social change affect someone like Olivia, who’s being courted by one person while she’s in love with another? And the whole idea of ‘dating’ was new. How does that affect how people pursue who they’re interested in?”

While interrogating social norms is a worthy academic exercise, it’s also secondary to putting on an entertaining show. And with a love triangle, mistaken identities galore, and a sanctimonious prig battling a cohort of libertine pranksters, “Twelfth Night” has been delighting audiences for more than four centuries.

Wolanin is sure that streak will continue when the curtain rises Thursday and Saturday night. On Friday and Saturday afternoon, however, a whole different cast will perform, giving audiences the chance to take in the exact same, completely different show.

Seventeen students signed up for Wolanin’s Shakespeare class, a year-long exploration of one play, culminating with the performing of that play. There aren’t 17 parts in “Twelfth Night,” let alone 17 significant parts, so Wolanin double-cast the show. One group will perform on opening and closing night, with the second group tackling the big Friday night and lighter Saturday afternoon performances.

Double-casting means Wolanin is double-directing as well. She seems to enjoy life on the high wire. Or perhaps she’s just acting.

“We’re in the thick of it and it’s total chaos and it’s wonderful!”

Kendall K. is the only senior in the show, and is playing The Fool in the Friday night/Saturday matinee cycle. Her Shakespeare classmates are overwhelmingly freshmen, and Kendall’s prior roles have tended toward the ingenue, so finding herself the veteran, in a starring comedic role “has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“Part of what’s been so great about the class is that we’ve taken the time to learn the context and draw new meaning from the text, actually understanding what the lines mean as opposed to just memorizing and reciting the words,” said Kendall. That understanding is especially important in “Twelfth Night” because it’s a comedy, and if the actors don’t get the words, they — and the audience — won’t be able to get the jokes.

Not to worry, Kendall said.

“The whole experience has been a lot of fun, and it’s a funny show.”

Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday April 25, 26 and 27, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. Advanced tickets $5 and available here, or $10 at the door.

Cast and Crew List

CAST

Viola — Sam L.** & Amelia L.*
Olivia — Sarah B.* & Sophie M.**
Maria — Malia C.** & Tess M.*
Sir Toby Belch — Skyler W.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek — Rohan K.** & Laurel M.*
Malvolio — George W.
The Fool — Kendall K.* & Charley W.**
Orsino — Justin K.
Valentine — Rohan K.* & Laurel M.**
Curio — Mira H.
Sebastian — Linnea W.** & Mira H.*
Antonio — Frannie T.
Captain — Taamir B.Y.
Priest — Taamir B.Y.
Officers — Sarah B. & Taamir B.Y.

* — Thursday and Saturday night
**— Friday night and Saturday matinee

CREW

Director — Kristin Wolanin
Stage Manager — Christopher M.
Assistant Stage Manager — Adrien W.
Scenic Artist — Diane Wilikofsky
Lighting Design — Barry Fritz
Master Electrician — Hayden F.
Sound Designers — Justin K. & Skyler W.
Sound Technician — Piper S.
Production Props Mistress — Linnea W.
Production Props Assistants — Taamir B.Y., Malia C., Mira H.
Props Run Crew — Anthony P. & Thomas W.
Production Costumes Crew — Kendall K., Rohan K., Sam L., Laurel M., Sophie M., Tess M.
Costumes Mistress — Katrina F.
Costumes Run Crew — Laura B., Sarah H., Maya R., Sadi S.
House Manager — Jack K.
Usher — Sarah H.
Box Office Production Crew — Frannie T., Amelia L.
Box Office Crew — Carly C., William M., David W.
Set Crew — Shakespeare Class
Publicity Crew — Sarah B., Justin K., George W., Charley W.