Sunday, June 26, 2016

Shakespeare's First Folio Preview Night

"Sneck up."
Friday night the company of Twelfth Night (As Told By Malvolio) presented a script-in-hand performance to an audience of donors and trustees for Cleveland Public Library and the several organizations partnering to present Shakespeare's First Folio in Cleveland.

'Twas a splendid evening, which also included a lecture and book signing with Andrea Mays, author of a The Millionaire and the Bard -- a history of Henry Folger and how he developed his obsession with the First Folio and became its greatest single collector -- as well as refreshments and chat.

The production doesn't officially open until July 8, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch of the CPL. The original plan was to just read my adaptation, with music stands and reading stage directions out loud. But at the this stage of the game, it made more sense to wear the costumes, use the few sound cues we have so far and play it.

I did have a certain trepidation about presenting this abridged version, as it strays from the complete Twelfth Night in several significant ways -- and I'm not talk about the 1980s teen romantic comedy vibe. The only characters are Malvolio, Viola, Olivia, and Orsino. There are no twins, for example. No Toby Belch, no Feste.

Great Lakes Theater Costume Display
Foreground: Othello
Background: Macbeth
Brett Hall, Cleveland Public Library
Having said that, there is still the letter prank, the central love triangle, and the best parts of Shakespeare's tremendous comedic wordplay. Add to that the fact that I took the liberty of incorporating some very popular passages from other plays to complete the emotional arc for both Olivia and Malvolio, ruminations on love and death, including text from As You Like It, Hamlet, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, and Richard III, all verses which can be found in the First Folio.

By setting it during one day in high school. we are able to focus on these small sets of interconnected relationships. It's all a neat, swift forty-five minute celebration of one of the Bard's most beloved comedies, and it's even quite affecting. It's free, and the company consists of some of my favorite young actors.

We performed in the newly restored Brett Hall, where they have a lovely platform stage and somewhat challenging acoustics. We'll figure that out before the three lunchtime performances that will be presented there on July 14, 15 & 16. Sitting behind most of the audience, fiddling with my iPod for the sound and trying to keep an eye on my script. I was delighted to hear many great laughs. I hope we can attract a nice crowd to our neighborhood performances.

You can find a complete calendar of sites and times for Twelfth Night (As Told By Malvolio) here.

The star of the event, of course, is the book itself, Shakespeare's First Folio, which can be seen now on the third floor of the main building in the Special Collections section. It's actually smaller than I had imagined, because the facsimiles I own are actually larger. Imagine one volume of the Oxford English Dictionary. It will remain on display in Cleveland in until July 30, so don't wait.

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