Tacoma park hosts 'classical and contemporary' take on Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' | KNKX

Tacoma park hosts 'classical and contemporary' take on Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'

Aug 8, 2019

Seattle Shakespeare Company is bringing its rendition of the Bard’s comedy “Twelfth Night” to the grassy lawn of Tacoma’s Wright Park on Friday evening.

It’s the final weekend to catch the company’s summer run of free shows held at parks throughout the region.

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director George Mount describes his company’s version of “Twelfth Night” —  “a goofy, romantic romp filled with disguises, deception and comeuppances for the pompous few” —  as both classical and contemporary.

The 2019 production features an all-male cast, just as it would have during the time of Shakespeare.

“The men are paying all the roles, but they are not necessarily changing the gender of the female identifying characters,” Mount said. “They also are not necessarily doing impersonations or drag of the female characters.”

The story of “Twelfth Night” centers on a love triangle and mistaken identity, set in motion when the character, Viola, disguises herself as a young man.

Mount says the decision to use an all-male identifying cast was multifold, including the opportunity to “rediscover nuances that may have been lying dormant in the text for 400 years.”

The challenge was then not to let it become “a production about maleness or masculinity at the exclusion of the feminine and the non-binary.”

In fact, Mount believes “standardizing the genders of all the performers” allows the more universal elements of the story to emerge — rather than what can happen sometimes with this play “where the humor is really about laughing at someone who is hiding their gender identity.”

“With that out of the equation, the frailness, the fragility, the sadness of the characters, the desperation of looking and wanting to be loved — that started to come through,” he said.

Because the play is a bit of a puzzle, the audience can expect a set that has the same feel, with stairways that go nowhere and doors that lead to walls.

Mount calls it reminiscent of an M.C. Escher print.

“The characters are walking around in an embodiment of visual illusion,” Mount said.

This marks the 26th year of Seattle Shakespeare Company’s free Wooden O productions, which was started by Mount.  

“It’s a populist and popular way to get great entertainment to people,” he said.

For those who want to see the company’s other outdoor show, “Romeo & Juliet” — this one with an all-female and non-binary cast — the final performances will be held on Mercer Island over the weekend.