When Lehigh’s department of theatre premieres its production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night this weekend, it will receive extra support from 17 students in the College of Arts and Science’s Freshman Seminar Course.
This timeless “dramedy” will benefit not only from the expertise of its 14 cast members, but also from first-year students who are assisting with costumes, advertising, set construction and blogging, and who will create a video documentary of the process from start to finish.
Co-directors Augustine Ripa and Kashi Johnson believe the play appeals to a younger generation because it deals with issues they are handling, such as the ability to be oneself in a strange place like college, the ability to love and be loved, and the idea of one’s search for identity.
“We are excited to incorporate the assistance of students from our freshman seminar,” says Ripa, a professor of theatre and associate dean for undergraduate programs for the College of Arts and Sciences. “This level of experiential learning is a unique component and enhances the seminar tremendously. Some of our seminar students won roles in the cast, while others are performing essential duties in stage management, scenic and costume technology, and more.”
Twelfth Night follows four main characters living in a fantastical place called Illryia where a nobleman named Orsino (Lorentz Aberg ’13), lies around pining away for the love of Lady Olivia (Lindsay Brown ’10). She is in mourning for her dead brother and refuses to entertain any proposals of marriage.
Meanwhile, off the coast, a storm has caused a terrible shipwreck. A young, aristocratic-born woman named Viola (Esperanza Pacheco ’13) is swept onto shore. Finding herself alone in a strange land, she assumes that her twin brother, Sebastian (Sean Maloney ’12), has been drowned in the wreck, and tries to figure out what sort of work she can do.
Viola decides to disguise herself as a man, taking on the name of Cesario, and she goes to work in the household of Duke Orsino. Orsino sends his new favorite Cesario/Viola to woo Olivia on his behalf. Of course, Viola, disguised as Cesario, falls for Orsino and Olivia falls for the beautiful boy, Cesario (Viola in disguise). Having set the scene, Shakespeare writes, “If music be the food of love, play on.”
“Each rehearsal becomes more comfortable and familiar for everyone involved,” says Johnson, an associate professor of theatre. “On any given night, I can look into the audience and see the seminar students working, a wall of laptops, cameras recording, and interacting with the cast. Everyone is engaged.”
Joining the audience for Sunday afternoon’s performance is Mike Pomerantz ’47 and his wife, Ruth, who have provided generous support over the years to Lehigh, especially to further the university's performing arts programs. Pomerantz played the role of Malvolio in the first Lehigh production of Twelfth Night in 1947, which took place at Broughal Middle School. Elliot Ramos ’13 will play the role of Malvolio in this year’s production.
Twelfth Night premieres in Zoellner Arts Center’s Diamond Theater on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, at 8 p.m.; on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m., and Wednesday- Saturday, Nov. 11-14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $5 for students.
For information, call 610-758-2787 (7LU-ARTS). For tickets, visit the Zoellner box office or order online at www.zoellnerartscenter.org. Senior, student, group and LVAIC discounts are available.