From L to R Cody Eden, Ed Burgh, Barbara Clark, Carrie Ann Eve
Shakespeare is back at the lake, and he’s better than ever! I’m not some kind of Shakespeare gal. I’m always ready to get a musical, but Shakespeare…not so much. I have to tell you, I absolutely loved this year’s show.”Twelfth night.Of all of Shakespeare’s work on the lake I’ve seen, I’ve found it to be the best so far.
The premise is that the Duke loves a Countess who is in mourning for her father and brother and has absolutely no interest in the Duke. The twins Viola and Sebastian wrecked ships and they separated. The twins pretend to be a male for safety and are sent by the Duke to lure the Countess in his name. There is, of course, a subplot, as always with Shakespeare, among the servants in the house of the Countess. And fun ensues!
One of the things that made this production so good is that I understood it! And the actors did, too. With Shakespeare there is iambic pentameter (a certain way of speaking with a rhythm) and consonant syllables to deal with. Then there is the language that is not always similar to our everyday speech. They all add layers to a performance and can be a challenge for the actor to master and for the audience to understand if the actor is unskilled.
There is a speech that Hamlet gives to the players summed up by me, “Speak the speech, I call you, as I pronounce it to you, it goes on the tongue. But if you speak of it, as many of our players do, I live as if the town-caller were speaking of my lines.” As soon as I write this, I notice that the spelling wants to change ‘direct’ to ‘if’. This makes more sense. If only there was a Shakespeare spelling check in real time!
But you will not need any translation for this offer. The actors did a great job of conveying the meaning of everything they say. Their use of gestures, facial expressions, and phrasing drove the message home. I asked the show’s director, John Tomlinson, if this year’s cast had more experience than usual or if they did anything differently to prepare this year. He emphasized that they had no more experience than the previous cast members. He has noticed that he has changed his directing style slightly to involve the actors more. He waited longer to set things up and just let the process happen which in turn allowed the actors to come up with ideas on their own. He noted that their ideas were often on par with his own.
He also saw that the actors came to this show with great force after being sidelined by the pandemic for two years. This is Shakespeare’s seventh year at the lake. The 2020 and 2021 productions were hypothetical. The actors were happy to get the chance to perform in person. However, resuming the process in person was not without challenges. The cast had more than its fair share of illnesses.
Fortunately, Viola and Sebastian weren’t the only twins associated with this show. Real-life twins Daniel and Brandon Blakeman were on hand. Daniel was cast as Duke Orsino. Brandon attended all of Daniel’s rehearsals. Fortunately, he was willing to fill in the actors who had to miss rehearsal due to illness, including two cast members who ended up with long-term COVID and one who had to have an emergency appendectomy. In fact, he helped a lot, becoming the honorary alternative to all roles.
Another aspect of this production that I enjoyed is the music. There have been several songs that Feste the Clown sung perfectly by Dakota Lewa McKay. I asked Tomlinson who created the music and the lyrics. Apparently, Shakespeare’s words are the same as they are written in the show. Though, they did add some popular culture references. However, the music was Cody Eden who played Koryo, Duke’s musician. He wrote original compositions that go along with the lyrics and fill in the gaps on stage. The music also helped popularize the show’s setting.
The show is set in outer space. This was reflected in the fashion. Costume designer Barbara Clark had a lot of fun recreating the costumes she found in storage, including some from a previous show,”Rocky Horror Pictures Show. It was inspired by many movies and TV shows on the theme of space. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying too much about fashion, but you should really see how many different show inspiration you can choose.
I asked Tomlinson why the space and why this show. “We’ve done Shakespeare in tights and probably will do it again, but it’s fun and refreshing to see Shakespeare through a new lens.” He also said at the time that he was choosing which show to direct, and he was seeing a lot of news about Amazon, Tesla, and special projects going into space. Plus he’s a fan of science fiction.
As for the reason for this show, it was one of the first Shakespearean performances he had ever seen. He has always found it very interesting and confusing for him. He saw her many times, but always kept his distance; I’m not quite sure if he’s ready to deal with it. Though, the opening has been used for years as a monologue. He finally decided he was ready to explore the themes within the show: “Believe what you see, you are what you wear, and explore who we are within the confines of gender labels.” He always found the language on the show beautiful and loved the idea of having a live musician on stage. “The opening monologue, which begins with ‘If music is love food, play it’ really sets the tone for the entire show,” Tomlinson says.
There is an ironic and unintentional twist of the “twins” in production. On the show, Elizabeth Whitmore plays Viola who pretends to be a man who is courting a woman. In real life, Hayley Martin is an actress who embodies Viola’s brother Sebastian. Hey Shakespeare had boys playing women so why not flip things up and have the woman play the man. Especially when we have a “small group of actors to pull for these shows”.
The entire cast is noteworthy, but unfortunately, I don’t have room to do them all justice. They will make you laugh and have fun. The show took place at Library Park in Lakeport last weekend. This weekend, you can see it on the other side of the lake at Clearlake in Austin Park on the new stage across from the police station. Shows August 5, 6 and 7 at 7 pm. Submission is free. However, you will want to bring your wallet. Beer and wine will be sold. There will also be tacos for purchase from Kitchen Catering. And on Sunday, Rock and Rolled Ice Cream will be on site.
Bring a chair or blanket to sit on and a hat would also be a good idea, as there probably won’t be much shade until sunset. Shakespeare at the Lake would like to thank the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake and also Lisa Wilson of Clearlake Campgrounds for paving the way for these performances.