Act IV, Performance (a.k.a. my big Shakespearean debut!)

I’ve never acted in a Shakespeare production before, so who’d have thought that I would play four characters over five acts in the Jepson Shakespeare Project’s performance of Twelfth Night!? In all seriousness, I am happy that I was able to help all of the acts out! I appreciate that they all trusted me to fill the roles on such short notice.

After performing on stage with literally all of the students that the various groups worked with, I must say that I am very impressed with how flexible they all were. Here I am, a 6-foot, 20-year-old, big guy with full facial hair (not the drawn-on kind either!), performing alongside them! I towered over my Curio in Act 1, and had to hold back laughter about how absurd that image must have looked to the audience! I was also really loud (since the chapel was built for voices like mine!) Yet the students all thought nothing of it! The fact that I was able to slip in and perform alongside these students is a great testament to how well all of the groups did with preparing their students for the unexpected: convincing them to be flexible and to go with the flow!

I was also impressed by how well the students in the other acts did, given their ages! Acts III and IV had the oldest students, so it wasn’t as surprising to us that they were able to pick up the language relatively quickly! But given the ages of the students in Act V, and especially in Acts I and II, I’m very impressed that they were able to get through so much difficult Shakespearean text! Good work!

Moving on to Act IV, I thought our group did a great job! There was good emotion behind all of the actors’ lines, the stage direction (for the most part) ran smoothly, and our act ran the amount of time that it was supposed to run! It was also great to see how enthusiastic our students were to be out there! I know before the show, some students, like Christina and Rufus, were nervous about getting on stage. But I think a combination of other students going out before them and the three of us motivating them to go on boosted their confidence! All of our students were stars — even Dale got some laughs with his fake slapping of Rufus (though he still struggled with his lines…thank you Natalie for helping him out!)

Now, of course, it wouldn’t be a show without a few problems. We didn’t get to read through Act IV again before the show started because the same students were busy reading through Act III. We were worried that this might make our students uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem to be a big issue! Right before our act started, Rufus, who had played Malvolio in Act III, had the cross-gartering from his costume stuck to his shoe. It caused a significant slowdown. However, we were proud of Rufus, because even though he was pretty shaken by the shoelace issue, he went right out on stage and introduced himself and his character, then went to join Christina and get his props. Speaking of props, we also could have done a better job of transitioning props from Act III to Act IV (this is kind of our fault as directors, because we chose to have the students enter from two different doors, while all the other acts just used one door, which made prop transitioning much easier.) Christina’s pants were a little loose, and kept falling down a bit. Finally, our makeshift prison door started falling apart near the beginning of Scene 2, and we had to rely on Natalie and a very generous Dr. Bezio to lay there and hold it up like two majestic statues.

But for me, none of those problems detracted from how good our act was overall! Most of the biggest challenges happened before our act started, which is better than having problems mid-act and throwing the whole flow off, so I’m grateful for that. And all of our actors carried on like troupers. Charles was especially fantastic on the day of the show, doing new voices and being really committed to his parts. Charles really wanted to sing Bad Blood with Christina at the end of Scene 2, but Christina didn’t want him to, and Charles said that was fine (I was really proud of this conflict resolution.) Instead, while Christina sang Bad Blood, Charles ad-libbed random shouts (“Help!” “Let me out of here!” “It’s awful!”) I tried my hardest to hold in laughter, but a very loud “HA” escaped me. It was brilliant. When he came off stage, he apologized and said he did it because it was a torture scene. I appreciated his commitment to the character and his understanding of the part and the scene.

I’m very proud of Talia! Talia’s confidence shot through the roof over the course of this project. The first day she came, she was very quiet, didn’t have very good eye contact, and definitely seemed nervous. However, as she kept showing up week after week, she opened up more, and she was always willing to participate (even reading big parts like Feste at a few rehearsals). When she arrived for the show, she gave me (and Maddie and Natalie) each individual big hugs. That’s something I would have never expected her to do when we first met her. And she did such a great job as Olivia!

So yes, I am very happy indeed with how the performance came out! This has been a great experience, both in terms of theater and leadership. I truly appreciate the opportunity I had to work with these students on this project.

P.S. All of you who didn’t come to the post-show dinner… you MISSED OUT!