Twelfth Night with Shakespeare 400

We took a break from class on Friday so our actors and teaching staff could celebrate Thanksgiving with their families and friends. Since we don’t have a rehearsal update for you this week, we’re pleased to give you a peek at plans for our next show…

Twelfth Night

Our very first production was Romeo & Juliet, and since that time, we have gone on to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Tempest.  In February 2016, we’ll start rehearsals for our 5th Shakespeare adaptation – the ensemble comedy Twelfth Night. Through the course of a 10-week rehearsal period, our ensemble and teaching staff will journey to the shores of a land called Illyria, where a violent shipwreck has separated twins Sebastian and Viola. Each believes the other has perished in the storm, and tries to build a new life in this new land. There are disguises, grand romantic gestures, songs, and practical jokes that go way too far. Characters have to overcome big obstacles and our actors will explore the themes of identity (mistaken identity, that is) and finding love.

Often, we get asked “Why do Shakespeare with this ensemble?” The implication being that Shakespeare is too dated, too boring, or perhaps too hard to be relevant. But, we don’t buy that. Our reply is always: “Why WOULDN’T we do Shakespeare?”  There is a reason these stories have held on through the centuries, and tackling these timeless tales empowers our actors in a way little else can.

Everything is BIG.

The characters are BIG. There are easily recognizable archetypes – lover, warrior, jester/clown, royal.  Everyone can identify with one part or another, and actors have to play with movement and physicality to embody these different character types, and show their relationships.

The emotions are BIG. If a Shakespeare character is thinking or feeling something, he expresses it directly, either to another character or breaking the fourth wall to the audience. There’s no hiding. Actors have to be forthright and honest and use their bodies and voices to communicate the full spectrum of feeling - Love, Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Jealousy, Shame, and more.

The language is BIG. Shakespeare gets a lot of flak for being confusing. But, remember, much of his original audience were not educated. They couldn’t read. And they certainly couldn’t understand every word he wrote because he invented several hundreds of them! The magic of Shakespeare’s language is that words sound like what they mean. Listen to the snake-like “s” sounds in the word “assassinate” or the big loving sighs in “enamored.” By playing with these sounds, the rhymes, and the musicality in the verses, our actors expand their vocabulary, and work on articulation and verbal clarity.

Obviously, Shakespeare holds a very special place in our hearts at A.B.L.E., and so we are honored that our production of Twelfth Night will be a part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a yearlong international arts festival in 2016 celebrating the vibrancy, relevance and reach of Shakespeare. As the world commemorates the four hundred years since Shakespeare’s death in 1616, Shakespeare 400 Chicago brings together our city’s resident world-class institutions across disciplines, and welcomes leading artists from around the globe to make Chicago their stage.

Spearheaded by our longtime friend, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, this yearlong Quadricentennial festival will host 850 events exploring how Shakespeare’s words continue to live in Chicago and throughout the world’s great theater, dance, literature, music, cuisine and spectacle. A.B.L.E.’s Twelfth Night is just one among a host of performances, exhibitions, and special events by local and international organizations. Some highlights include:

  • The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Riccardo Muti conducts Verdi’s Falstaff

  • Art Institute of Chicago highlights Shakespeare-inspired visual art in a special exhibition

  • A culinary “Complete Works” in restaurants across the city created by Chicago chefs and restaurateurs, including Rick Bayless, Alpana Singh and Ryan McCaskey.

  • The Newberry Library’s “Creating Shakespeare” exhibition with treasures from the British Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library alongside The Newberry’s own renowned Shakespeare collection.

  • Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Tug of War, a 6-part cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays

  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce

  • Shanghai Peking Opera’s The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan (based on Hamlet)

  • Hamburg Ballet’s Othello at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance

  • (In)Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare from Forced Entertainment at the Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Cheek by Jowl/Pushkin Theatre of Moscow production of Declan Donnellan’s Measure for Measure

  • Belarus Free Theatre’s King Lear

  • The Company Theatre of Mumbai’s Hindi translation of Twelfth Night

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company’s music-infused Twelfth Night

That’s just the beginning! You can peruse event listings or request a complete program brochure on the Shakespeare 400 Website. Chicagoans and the world can engage with Shakespeare 400 Chicago and access vast digital resources and archives released around the festival across platforms—including online, on Facebook, Twitter (@shakes400chi) and Instagram (@shakes400chi).

We are beyond excited for this tremendous opportunity to share our work with a global audience. Follow our journey by reading out weekly blog posts. A.B.L.E.’s founder and lead teaching artist, Katie, will give you an inside look as she adapts the script for our performance. We’ll take you with us on Field Trips to see professional productions that are also a part of the Festival. And, once rehearsals start, you’ll get photos, videos, and stories from our classes so you can stay a part of the action.

Remember to follow us on social media for other updates and content!

Save the date for this landmark performance:

May 28th, 2016 @ 10:30am

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier