Taffety Punk Theatre Company presents Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Michelle Shupe and choreographed by company member Erin Mitchell, featuring company members Tonya Beckman, Daniel Crane, Daniel Flint, Kimberly Gilbert, and Esther Williamson. The production plays Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th Street SE, Washington, DC, now through February 23, 2013. BroadwayWorld has a first look at the cast in action below!
Twelfth Night begins with a shipwreck-and from there, Taffety Punk takes a daring leap into the waves to explore Viola's journey through Illyria. Director Michelle Shupe's adaptation immerses the play in a watery grave through which Viola fights for breath and fights to survive. "The play takes place in the time it takes Viola to drown-or not drown, as the case may be," says Shupe, a veteran Riot Grrrl whose Shakespeare credits with Taffety Punk include Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet and the Duke in Measure for Measure. "It's an Alice in Wonderland of sorts. When we go down the rabbit hole with Viola into the depths of her subconscious mind, we find that everyone in this world is drowning in something."
Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola, who washes up in Illyia following a shipwreck and disguises herself as a man-Cesario-to enter the service of Duke Orsino, with whom she falls in love. Duke Orsino, himself in love with Olivia, sends Cesario to woo the lady on his behalf, but she falls for Cesario instead. The love triangle is further complicated when Viola's twin Sebastian arrives in Illyria and is mistaken for Cesario.
Company member Tonya Beckman, who portrays Olivia, says, "There is something so melancholy and chilly about Twelfth Night, as funny as it is. The play as the vision of a dying girl takes that melancholy coldness and turns it from a stumbling block into a starting place. I think [Michelle's] concept is fascinating."
Shupe warns any Shakespeare purists that it's not the standard telling of the play. "But when do the Punks do anything 'expected'? The production will involve dance, song, improv, great language, and all the strengths and ideas that the actors can possibly bring to it."
Taffety Punk has a history of presenting Shakespeare's work in unexpected ways-from the all-female Riot Grrrls productions such as Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing to the annual one-night Bootleg Shakespeare, which throws actors in front of an audience after having one day to stage and rehearse such works as Troilus and Cressida, Two Noble Kinsmen, and King John.
The company recently brought Shakespeare's narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece to the stage, complete with a punk rock band and choreography. This production prompted The Express to say, "The adventurous thespians of Taffety Punk take a city with a bunch of staid Shakespeare companies that think 'adventurous' means setting Merry Wives in the 1950s and just push it all into traffic." On "pushing" Twelfth Night overboard and into the sea, Shupe says, "It's a risk to tell the play through this filter, but the hope is that it will illuminate the text in a whole new way."