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Actors Theatre Of Missouri Updates Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" To the Roaring (19)20s

(Poster design courtesy Actors Theatre of Missouri)

Actors Theatre of Missouri’s Shakespeare At The Columns series presents William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night, (or What You Will)", directed by Sarah Campbell, in FREE performances at the Springfield Art Museum auditorium.  Dates are Jan.10-12 and 17-19 with 7:30pm curtain on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm Sundays.  The “What You Will” part refers to the fact that, while free and open to the public, donations will be gladly accepted. We talked with two of the actors in the show, Samantha Henridi (playing Viola and Cesario) and Graham Weldon (Duke Orsino). Both have been involved with Actors Theatre's Shakespeare series for some time. This is Weldon's third show with the company; Henridi said she was entering her eighth year with them--"so I've done a LOT of Shakespeare with this company."           

Weldon is one of the few actors in this show whose character doesn't appear in disguise as someone else! He said, "It's one of those comedies, there's a lot of mistaken identity. There are twins in the show...." He gave us a quick summary of the play's complicated plot. "It starts off with a shipwreck where the twins [Viola and twin brother Sebastian] get separated, and each thinks the other has died. Viola decides to dress up as a man [Cesario] to work for Duke Orsino, who I play. He's in love with this other woman [Olivia] and is trying to win her affection, while Viola, dressed as Cesario, falls in love with Orsino--and is having to hide her feelings for him, while sending his messages of love to the other woman!" Yes, Orsino sends "Cesario" to woo Olivia on his behalf... and she falls in love with Cesario/Viola. "Classic love triangle there," added Graham Weldon. And while we're at it... Olivia's butler Malvolio, is secretly in love with her, and the other members of the household staff try to trick him into believing those feelings are returned. Oh, and I almost forgot: Sebastian, Viola's twin brother, shows up, not knowing his sister is still alive. Olivia mistakes him for Viola's alter-ego Cesario, and asks him to marry her... and he agrees.

"It's a whole mess," said Weldon. "And it's kind of cruel in a way!  But very funny."

Despite all the false identities and confusion, "Twelfth Night" has a fairly large cast of around 15, as there are numerous servants and attendants who work for Olivia and the Duke. Graham Weldon acknowledged it can get a bit crowded backstage at the Art Museum auditorium. "But that's something you're used to when doing theater, so you're home back there."

Director Sarah Campbell has updated the setting to the Roaring (19)20s. "We set Duke Orsino's (location) at a club rather than a palace. So we're seeing it after hours while everyone's relaxing--they're playing poker, they're drinking, they're having a good time," said Graham Weldon. "I'm playing the trumpet in one of the early scenes." Campbell asked him if he could play, and he said, "Well, it's been a while... I actually haven't played it since concert band in junior high, so it's been ten years. But I dove right back in, and I'm back up to pace."

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Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.