Avonworth Drama’s production of Twelfth Night, one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known comedies, finished its 4-day run this Saturday night with what actors said was the “best run of the show season”. Twelfth Night’s cast and crew had worked tirelessly to optimize the production for each night’s new audience. The cast, along with director Deborah Frauenholz, were pleasantly surprised several days ago to learn that each show of the 4-day run had sold out completely with ticket sales exceeding that of last year’s show The Crucible. “We were super excited to hear that every single seat sold,” said senior Adam Boaks, playing Sebastian in Twelfth Night’s intricate story. “Especially since The Crucible, which is probably more well known than Twelfth Night, hadn’t [sold out] last year.”
Frauenholz took it upon herself to modify the play (as it’s in the public domain and able to be interpreted in different ways) and she gave the Shakespearean setting a 1930’s movie set theme. “Most of the roles in this production are ‘performed’ by famous Hollywood actors or types” writes Frauenholz in the show’s program. “…our student cast members are actually playing two roles: the ‘character’ of a famous screen star or type and then their ‘role’ in Twelfth Night as that Hollywood legend.” This was much to the enjoyment of film fanatics and the older folks who were invited to dress rehearsal, who may have noticed the hilarious parallels between the Hollywood actors and Shakespeare characters.
The general consensus among actors and student audience members alike was that the show was a success. The audience seemed impressed each night as much applause would ensue after actors sang the closing song “Hooray for Hollywood” and proceeded to bows.
The following are the director’s notes as they appeared in the program:
Hooray for Hollywood–er Illyria?
The great joy–and challenge–of directing a Shakespeare comedy is that there are almost no stage directions given by the playwright. No hints, no help. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Since these dramas are in the public domain, a director is free to create any land or locale in which to launch her vision of the world according to The Bard. And…away we go!
I chose to set Twelfth Night on a live, or “hot,” movie set where famous Hollywood actors of the 1920s and 30s are filming a production of Twelfth Night–in the personas of some of their most recognizable film roles. The crew will also change scenes between “takes” as the “director” calls the shots!
This Shakespeare comedy is particularly rife with Vaudevillian slapstick moments, sight gags, mistaken identities, and practical jokes, the sort of fodder that drove the early silent film industry into the era of the “talkies.” Names like Groucho Marx, Clara Bow, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis–all film royalty, known for creating iconic roles ensconced in the hallowed history of Hollywood’s Golden Age–resonate with decades of film aficionados, purveyors of punchlines, and lovers of laughter. They all find a fitting home within the parameters of our Twelfth Night, which Shakespeare seems to have crafted for just such a scenario.
Most of the roles in this production are “performed” by famous Hollywood actors or types. Therefore, our student cast members are actually playing two roles: the “character” of a famous screen star or type and then their “role” in Twelfth Night as that Hollywood legend.
Double the challenge–double the fun!!
To add to the mayhem, I gave Feste a “mum” sidekick, a common vaudeville device, akin to characters like Dopey dwarf in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Gideon the Fox in Pinocchio. Who better to be the hilarious compliment to a Groucho Marxian Feste than Groucho’s real-life brother and partner in slapstick, Harpo Marx?! Do you know that Harpo was actually an accomplished harpist? He performed complex and inventive pieces in many Marx Brothers films.
I also added and scripted a Cecil B. DeMille-style director character, obviously not envisioned by “The Bard,” complete with jodhpurs, megaphone, and canvas chair. Our director takes on the guise of America’s first female film director, Lois Weber, who was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania–known today as Pittsburgh’s North Side. Her first feature film was a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice–how fitting! She went on to rival the fame of C.B. DeMille and made over 100 films. By 1916, she was the top director at Universal Film Manufacturing (now Universal Studios) making her the highest-paid director in the world.
So, welcome to our wonderful world–that screwy, bally hooey Hollywood! Glad to have you “on set!” Indulge in the glamour, the hilarity, the action and hyjinx of the Golden Age of Cinema! Hooray for Hollywood…er, Illyria!
Deborah Frauenholz, Producer/Director
Additionally, a Who’s Who was provided for audience members – here is a copy of the text from the original program:
Who’s Who in our Hollywood Cast
|W. C. Fields–Fields’ comic persona was a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist, who remained a sympathetic character despite his snarling contempt for dogs and children. His career in show business began in vaudeville as a juggler. He was a featured comedian in the Ziegfeld Follies for several years. He became a star in the Broadway musical comedy Poppy (1923). His subsequent stage and film roles were often similar scoundrels, or else henpecked everyman characters.
Among his recognizable trademarks were his raspy drawl and grandiloquent vocabulary.
|Clara Bow—Bow rose to stardom in silent film during the 1920s, successfully making the transition to “talkies” after 1927. Her appearance as a plucky shopgirl in the film It brought her global fame and the nickname “The It Girl.” Bow personified the Roaring Twenties as its leading sex symbol. She appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies. She was named first box-office draw in 1928-1929 and second box-office draw in 1927 and 1930. Her presence in a motion picture was said to have ensured investors, by odds of almost 2-to-1, a “safe return.” At the apex of her stardom in 1929, she received more than 45,000 fan letters in a single month.|
|Harold Lloyd–actor, comedian, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and stunt performer, most famous for his silent comedy films. Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era, making nearly 200 comedy films, both silent and “talkies,” between 1914 and 1947. He is best known for his bespectacled “Glasses” character, a resourceful, success-seeking go-getter. His films frequently contained “thrill sequences,” extended chase scenes, and daredevil physical feats, which he performed himself, Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923) is one of the most enduring images in all of cinema.|
|Fred Astaire—dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and television presenter. Astaire’s stage and subsequent film and television careers spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films, several television specials, and numerous recordings. He is the quintessential embodiment of the top hat, white tie and tails look. As a dancer, he is best remembered for his sense of rhythm and perfectionism. Most know him as the dancing partner and on-screen romantic interest of Ginger Rogers, with whom he co-starred in a series of ten Hollywood musicals. Astaire was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fifth greatest male star of Classic Hollywood cinema in 100 Years… 100 Stars.|
|Rosalind Russell–known for her role as fast-talking newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson in the screwball comedy His Girl Friday(1940), Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame (1958), and Rose in Gypsy (1962). A noted comedienne, she won five Golden Globes, surpassed only by Meryl Streep in 2007. Russell had a wide career span from the 1930s to the 1970s, usually playing character types, classy and glamorous roles, and professional women, such as judges, reporters, and psychiatrists.|
|James Cagney–actor and dancer, both on stage and in film, known for energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan timing. He is best remembered for playing complex tough guys in The Public Enemy(1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and White Heat (1949), In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema. The Public Enemy, one of the most influential gangster movies of the period, made Cagney one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. In 1942, Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of vaudeville great George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.|
|Rudolph Valentino–Italian-born American actor who starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik. An early pop icon, a sex symbol of the 1920s, he was known as the “Latin lover” or simply as “Valentino.” He had applied for American citizenship shortly before his death, which occurred at age 31, causing mass hysteria among his female fans, further propelling him into iconic status.|
|Humphrey Bogart–whose performances in 1940s films noir such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The Big Sleep earned him status as a cultural icon. His trademark film persona—the gangster or the hard-boiled cynic who ultimately shows his noble side—later led to adventure films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen, for which he won the Academy Award. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star of Classic American cinema.|
|Edward John Smith—British Merchant Navy officer, served as master of numerous White Star Line vessels. He is best known as the captain of the RMS Titanic, perishing when the ship sank on its maiden voyage, 15 April 1912. Smith and over 1,500 others perished in the sinking. For his stoicism and fortitude in the face of adversity, Smith became an icon of British “stiff upper lip” spirit and discipline.|
|Groucho Marx–American comedian and film and television star, a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era. His rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers and imitators. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers. He also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life. His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, glasses, cigar, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows.|
|Harpo Marx—comedian, actor, mime artist, and musician, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho and Chico, Harpo’s comic style was visual, being an example of both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blonde wig, and never spoke during performances (he blew a horn or whistled to communicate). He frequently used props such as a horn cane, made up of a lead pipe, tape, and a bulb horn. He played the harp in many films, although he never learned to play or tune it properly|
|Franklin Pangborn—comedic character actor. Pangborn was famous for small, but memorable roles, with a comic flair. He appeared in many Preston Sturges movies as well as the W.C. Fields films International House, The Bank Dick, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Pangborn portrayed a fussy type of person, polite, elegant, and highly energetic, often officious, fastidious, somewhat nervous, prone to becoming flustered but essentially upbeat, and with an immediately recognizable high-speed patter-type speech pattern. He typically played an officious desk clerk in a hotel, a self-important musician, a fastidious headwaiter, an enthusiastic birdwatcher, and the like, and was usually put in a situation of frustration or was comedically flustered by someone else’s topsy-turvy antics.|
|The Keystone Cops (often spelled “Keystone Kops“) were fictional incompetent policemen, featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century. The movies were produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917.|
|Barry Fitzgerald—Irish stage, film and television actor. In a career spanning almost forty years, he appeared in such notable films as Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Long Voyage Home (1940), How Green Was My Valley(1941), None but the Lonely Heart (1944) and The Quiet Man (1952). For Going My Way 1944), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and was simultaneously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.|
|A bellhop (North America) or hotel porter (international) is a hotel porter, who helps patrons with their luggage while checking in or out. Bellhops often wear a uniform, like certain other page boys or doormen. This occupation is also called bellman and bellboy. The type most notably resurfaced to popular acclaim in the film Grand Budapest Hotel, and is reflected in the uniforms of the Walt Disney World cast members who operate The Hollywood Tower of Terror attraction.|
|Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford. In the contemporary Western world, comparatively few households can afford live-in domestic help. In Twelfth Night, while Maria is more like a personal assistant or lady-in-waiting, this servant is instead a domestic.|