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Capital Classics to Bring 'Twelfth Night' to Life in Outdoor Setting

Be a groundling for the night and watch this Shakespearean melancholic comedy unfold on the lawn outside the Carol Autorino Center at the University of Saint Joseph.

People are not who you think they are in Capital Classics Theater Company's upcoming outdoor production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Viola, a shipwreck survivor, disguises herself as a boy named Cesario to serve Orsino, duke of Illyria. Mourning over the presumed loss of her brother, she connects with Countess Oliva, whom the duke wants to marry and who also is grieving over the loss of her own brother and father.

The case of mistaken identity turns what is often melancholy into a comedy of dramatic irony as the audience waits for characters to reveal who they really are.

"I'm emphasizing more of the melancholy in it because it is one of the things that draws me to the play," said Director Kaia Monroe Rarick, who is working with Capital Classics for the first time and works at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

Monroe Rarick, of Hamden, and Massachusetts native David Regan (Feste) wrote the music to back Shakespeare's lyrics for songs written into the play, except for the tune of The Bare Necessities in a bar room scene. They wrote the lyrics for the parody rendition.

The professional company was co-founded by Newington residents Geoffrey Sheehan (Malvolio) and Laura Sheehan (Maria) 22 years ago and is housed at the in West Hartford.

The Shakespearean play has inspired many takes on its mistaken idendity plot, including the 2006 movie, She's the Man, starring Amanda Bynes as Viola and Channing Tatum as Duke, a contemporary Orsino.

Monroe Rarick chose to set it in the 1900s.

In the spirit of mistaken identity, Avon Patch has gotten the scoop on the play from Viola herself, or should we say Cesario. Caroline Stommes, a Minnesota native living in Southington for the summer, plays her.

A Conversation with Viola

Avon Patch: Who are you?

Viola: My name is Cesario, fair maiden.

Avon Patch: Are you sure that’s who you really are?

Viola: Yes, would you think I'd be anyone else?

Avon Patch: Are you sure?

Viola: Okay, but you can't tell anyone. I'm really Viola of Messalin. Sebastian is my father.

Avon Patch: Why are you pretending to be someone else? What’s your story?

Viola: What happened was my brother and I were traveling at sea and the ship sank and I got wrecked on shore without my brother and by myself as a woman. In this day and age as a woman, you can be easily taken advantage of. So, I had to dress up as a man to protect myself. And now I'm serving Count Orsino. (Giggles) Yes, I'm serving him so that I can be safe from all the outside elements.

Avon Patch: Is everyone else buying it?

Viola: They seem to be buying it, but I don't know for how long.

Avon Patch: Have you ever pretended to be someone else before?

Viola: Yes, I have in a different world and a different time I have been Miranda in The Tempest and Desdemona in Othello and Ophelia in Hamlet. But that's a different time and place.

Avon Patch: What is the key to pretending to be someone else?

Viola: I think you definitely have to get rid of your mannerisms and think of yourself in the world of the other person and concentrate on that.

Avon Patch: Are you scared they’ll learn the truth about who you are?

Viola: I am because I have to say I've become quite infatuated with the duke and I think if he learned my secret, he'd be very angry with me.

Avon Patch: What is the most challenging part about pretending to be someone else?

Viola: I think forgetting that people are watching you, forgetting that other people are there and having to block them out and fully immerse yourself in a different world.

Avon Patch: What’s the best part?

Viola: The best part is being able to immerse yourself in a different world.

Avon Patch:  Is it uncomfortable wearing men’s clothing?

Viola: Actually, it is quite comfortable because the butt on my pants doesn't fit like a woman's butt would. Of course, I'd be wearing a dress in this era and time, but I don't have to wear a corset either, which is nice. The only thing that's uncomfortable is that I have to hide my hair. That can be very tiresome.

Avon Patch: In the story, how often do you get to wear a dress?

Viola: Once, at the beginning.

Avon Patch: What costuming and mannerisms are key to look like a man?

Avon Patch: I definitely have to watch how often and how widely I sway my hips as I walk. I have to be wary of my posture and sort of military-esque as I am the attendant to the duke. And I have to do his bidding and be attentive at that.

Avon Patch: What would your brother Sebastian say if he saw you like this?

Viola: I think he would be quite shocked and might not recognize me at first.

Avon Patch: What can others learn from your story and why is it a story worth telling?

Viola: I think that the important thing about this story is that you should fight for love no matter what the circumstances because it might not turn out exactly how you would expect.

Cast List

  • Orsino, Duke of Illyria: Nicholas Pollifrone, of Naugatuck
  • Feste: David Reagan, of Massachusetts
  • Fabian: James Leaf, of New Haven
  • Viola/Cesario: Caroline Stommes, of Minnesota and a Southington resident for the summer
  • Sea Captain/Priest/Curio: David Loeb, of Wallingford
  • Sir Toby Belch: Michael Nowicki, of Farmington and Newington
  • Maria: Laura Sheehan, of Newington
  • Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Ben Cole, of Hartford
  • Valentine: Jake Grannan, a New Hamshire native and current Hartford resident
  • Olivia: Heather Stanton, of Bloomfield
  • Malvolio: Geoffrey Sheehan, of Newington
  • Antonio: Grègoire Mouning, of North Haven
  • Sebastian: Kiel Stango, of Prospect

The play runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. from July 26 to Aug. 12. outside the Carol Autorino Center at the (1678 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford). If it rains, the performance will be inside at the building next door.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 860-231-5555. It costs $15 for adults to attend and $10 for children.

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