Twelfth Night

Post image for Menlo School Drama presents Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” weekend of Feb. 9

Menlo Drama is presenting Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night , a 400-year-old comedy still as relevant and relatable today.

Performances run Friday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 10 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 11 at 2:00 p.m. in Florence Moore Auditorium at Menlo School, 50 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students, available for advance purchase at store.menloschool.org. Tickets may also be available at the door one hour before each performance. This production is suitable for all audiences.

Shakespeare’s enduring romantic comedy teems with Saturnalian energy, turning logic and expectation upside down in a tale of mistaken identities, misdirected affection and unrequited love. Shipwrecked and washed ashore on the mysterious island of Illyria, Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are separated, each fearing the other lost to the sea. Viola, who must disguise herself as a boy in order to survive, falls in love with Duke Orsino, while the object of Orsino’s obsession, Countess Olivia, falls for the disguised Viola. Enter twin brother Sebastian, and the result is a love trapezoid that only a trio of improbable marriages can untangle.

Audiences of all ages will love Twelfth Night because “it’s very fun and entertaining, giving people a more accessible way to enjoy [Shakespeare’s] work,” says cast member Maddie Bernheim. Through her character, Viola — a female protagonist disguised as a male for the majority of the play — Bernheim says the show engages “in an exploration of gender boundaries in a way that is incredibly relevant today, as gender fluidity moves into the spotlight.” In the end, Bernheim says, “ Twelfth Night is a timeless love story about people who are finding themselves.”

Director of Creative Arts and Upper School Drama Steven Minning is thrilled to be staging Twelfth Night as his fourteenth mainstage and first Shakespeare production for Menlo School. Minning chose this play in part for the challenging and multi-layered characters the actors must portray, “characters who, in turn, are pretending to be something other than what they are, whether they realize it or not.” According to Minning, “Disguise is the human condition here, and finding the faces beneath the masks results in a fast-paced comic romp, where before the end of the play, pretty much everyone takes a tumble, physically as well as metaphorically, pratfalls and all!”

Continuing the tradition of philanthropy Minning began four years ago through Menlo Drama Gives Back, this production of Twelfth Night will benefit Equal Rights Advocates, a national nonprofit that has transformed the law for hundreds of thousands of women and girls over four decades through impact litigation, advice and counseling, and policy reform.

Over the past four seasons, Menlo Drama has raised over $27,500, primarily through audience donations, for the benefit of specific nonprofit organizations, chosen by the casts of each production specifically because their work correlates to the central theme or message of the show. The Twelfth Night cast chose ERA for its mission to achieve true gender equality, so that someday all women and girls can, like Viola, find the courage to speak their truths, take off their disguises and stand in the spotlight.

Twelfth Night is the second show of the 2017-18 Menlo Drama season, which will conclude in May 2018 with an all-school production of the English musical Oliver. For more information, visit menloschool.org/arts/drama.

Photo by Bella Scola (left to right): Clara Guthrie, Maddie Bernheim, Diego Mejia

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