April 24, 2014

Shakespeare Under the Stars returns to California State University, Stanislaus

The gender-bending romantic comedy “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” comes to Shakespeare Under the Stars returns to California State University, Stanislaus.

Experience the timeless work of the Bard under the limitless night sky.

The California State University, Stanislaus, department of theater presents the fifth annual Shakespeare Under the Stars production starting Tuesday. This year, the free community event will feature the romantic comedy “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.”

“We like to view it as a gift from the university to the community,” said John Mayer, chairman of the theater department. “It is great to bring the family out to the living theater. We try to create a set and costumes to compete with Shakespeare festivals anywhere. Sit out on a beautiful night and watch Shakespeare and have it not cost them anything. It’s a way for the campus to express its gratitude to the community.”

This year, Shakespeare Under the Stars, which has alternated between the Bard’s comedies and tragedies each year, presents the popular gender-bending play. The story follows a woman who disguises herself as a man after a shipwreck to find work, and a series of romantic high jinks follows.

The play runs six nights straight at the CSU, Stanislaus, Amphitheater. The production will be set in the 1920s with a colorful Mediterranean backdrop. The music will span the period, but also include some more modern selections.

Mayer said Chicago-based director and actor Dan Gately, who played MacBeth in last year’s Shakespeare Under the Stars, brings a Baz Luhrmann aesthetic to the show. Modern music from the Rolling Stones and Warren Zevon is interspersed in the production.

“It’s an eclectic show. He mixes contemporary musical elements with that show. It’s ‘Great Gatsby’-esque,” Mayer said. “That era is one, too, of kind of excess. So it captures the roaring ’20s.”

The mistaken-identity romance features a cast of 27 including community actors, professional actors and theater students. Mayer said students get a chance to learn from the veteran performers.

The cast includes community actors Laura Dickinson-Turner as cross-dressing Viola, Katie Steele Brokaw as wealthy countess Olivia and Colton Dennis as Olivia’s steward, Malvolio.

The audience is invited to bring blankets and low-back chairs to the event and pack a picnic. But no outside alcohol or glass containers are allowed.

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