By Amanda Langston/The Signal
Coming soon to an amphitheatre very near you: California State University, Stanislaus will present its annual event, “Shakespeare Under the Stars,” with a production of “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” running April 29 to May 4 in the University Amphitheatre.
Director Dan Gately has returned for the fifth consecutive year to lead a cast of about 30 actors in the classic Shakespearean comedy.
“It’s a love story, and it’s about finding love, looking for love on your terms,” Gately said of the show’s basic plot, “but finding it by any means necessary.”
This play is replete with all the classic Shakespearean comical elements: mistaken identity leading to comical misunderstandings, romance, love triangles and over-the-top characters, as well as some elements unique to this production.
“Audiences can expect to see a fairly wide variety of art, and they can expect to laugh a lot. It’s a very funny play,” Gately said. “They should expect to see … a little bit of swashbuckling, some comic swordplay and some very serious swordplay interspersed with some wonderful, wonderful dance sequences and movement sequences and a lot of live music. We’ve incorporated a great deal of live music into this production.”
Gately’s adaptation of the play is set in the 1920s, something Gately believes will make the show more relatable to audience members.
“The first duty of any director or adaptor of Shakespeare is to make it accessible to his or her audience,” Gately said. “I think the 20th century is both distant and remote enough, and accessible enough, to modern sensibilities, to modern audiences."
The experienced director’s adaptation will take audience members back to a nostalgic time of revelry and exuberant celebration, reminiscent of the parties in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“I’ve chosen to transport our audience to Mallorca, which is this very, very much upscale resort island off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, and set it in the time period of the roaring ‘20s, the mid ‘20s – ’25, ’26 – when the world was kind of at the peak of … hedonism, over-the-top kind of displays," Gately said. "In that regard, it’s very ‘Gatsby-esque.’”
While Gately has chosen to take the play out of its original setting, the fictional kingdom of Illyria, he’s left another important aspect untouched: the dialogue. Though the play will be performed in the original Shakespearean English, show-goers should not be worried.
“We worked very hard to make sure that everything [the actors] are doing is clear, is well motivated, comes from an honest place in them and is presented in such a way that the audience, even if they don’t understand every word, they understand the through line of it: ‘Oh, I see why she’s saying this. I see why she’s doing this,’” Gately said. “The more audiences see, the more they understand.”
While there are some “adult” moments and references to body humor in the play, Gately assures that this is a family-friendly show.
“It’s not a dirty play or a raunchy play by any means," Gately said. "I’m talking about maybe two or three references to love-making or that sort of thing, and they’re not overt – they’re not crass references. It’s comedy, it’s pure comedy.”
Entry into the show is completely free and there will also be free parking available in Lot 3 off of Crowell Road, between the Music Department and Demergasso-Bava Hall.
Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. each night. The performance will start promptly at sundown, following a pre-show.
This event boasts blanket and low-back chair seating only, so be sure to bring along something to sit on. Patrons are more than welcome to bring in food for a picnic before the show, but alcohol and glass containers are not permitted within the amphitheatre.
“It can be a very romantic night out if [show-goers] so desire,” Gately said. “Come as a couple. Come with a few couples. Or come with a big flock or gaggle of friends and stakeout four blankets, five blankets of area and have a blast. It’s a party, and while you’re partying, you’ll get to see this terrific show in a venue that’s unique in the valley.”
Questions? Feel free to contact the Theatre Department at 209-667-3451, or check out the event website at www.csustan.edu/shakespeare.
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