Shakespeare in the Park

Ellie Rambo, Staff Reporter

An outdoor production involving shipwrecks and cross-dressing is the perfect way to end a summer of theater.

For many Cleveland residents, The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Twelfth Night” filled this role last weekend as part of the Cleveland One World Festival’s events programming.

To play all the necessary characters in this abridged production, the five person cast doubled up on roles and made costume changes just off-stage, behind a tree. The actors played many of the characters with exaggerated personalities, which helped set each role apart.

Local actress and CWRU alum Hillary Wheelock played both the countess Olivia and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, one of her foolish suitors.

“It can be really hard finding what to switch to for a different character,” Wheelock said. “For Sir Andrew I started with the weird voice and went from there. The walk came later.”

Some of the absurd characters seemed like caricatures—Sir Andrew had a lisp-y Brooklyn accent and a crooked baseball cap—but the exaggeration added to the comedy. Even some of the more serious characters had quirky accessories, like the curly mustache the shipwrecked Viola wore for her male disguise. In this case especially, the basic costumes helped the audience keep track of the humorous characters, as Viola’s mustache did not do the greatest job of disguising her “true” identity from the audience.

The shortened play also helped with clarity, as many secondary characters and long monologues were cut. Although this did remove much of the play’s context and serious themes, it did leave the narrative intact and made the action easy to follow.

“We strive to make things as accessible as possible,” said Wheelock. “We want to be a first introduction to Shakespeare that makes people say: ‘I want to come back.’”

The focus on accessibility also extends to cost.

“Being able to come see a free show in the park is unusual,” said Wheelock. “I would say this is some of the most accessible theater in the nation. We’re a low budget theater that brings it as best as we can.”

The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival will return next summer with productions of Timon of Athens and the Merchant of Venice. Auditions are open to the public and will begin in March.