Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Shakespearean Lulu

Today's edition of the Columbia Missourian carries an article about a local Shakespearean production whose characters are composed of silent film stars, including Louise Brooks. Check out the article here. The article reads in part:
He has taken a meta-theatrical approach — that is, the use of theater as a metaphor for life — to the direction of "Twelfth Night," which begins Thursday. The characters on stage play archetypal figures from the era of silent film.

“I chose actors from the silent film era who crafted on-screen personas that resemble the characters found in 'Twelfth Night,'” Johnson said. For example, Orsino, the Duke of Illyria in "Twelfth Night," is Rudolph Valentino as he appeared in the classic "Son of the Sheik."

Johnson said that in Shakespeare’s play, Orsino becomes trapped in the role of a lover who is narcissistic and immobilized by his vision of true love. Similar to Orsino’s character, Valentino was inextricably linked to his image as "The Great Lover." "Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen," he was reported to have said. "I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams.”  

Other "Twelfth Night" re-imaginings include Malvolio as Lon Chaney, Olivia as Louise Brooks, Sir Toby as Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Feste as Charlie Chaplin. 

For audience members unfamiliar with silent film stars and stories, lobby displays and program notes will help fill in the context. Johnson hopes the production will work on a few levels.  

“Audience members who see the parallels between the two will have additional layers to contemplate," Johnson said. "Lovers of Shakespeare can hear his beautifully crafted story and poetry, and everyone can enjoy the physical humor, the music and the dancing."
I would love to hear from anyone who attends this production!

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