Corrections or additions?
This article by Joan Crespi was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
August 25, 1999. All rights reserved.
In England, a nationwide vote elected William
"Man of the Millennium." This week in Princeton, he is the
man of the weekend, courtesy of Shakespeare in the Square, a free
Palmer Square festival now celebrating its fifth anniversary.
by Victoria Liberatori and Anne Reiss, the outdoor drama festival
is a project of the 15-year-old Princeton Repertory Company.
"Twelfth Night" is this year’s attraction, with performances
set for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 27, 28, and 29. Playgoers
will notice the dates have been moved up from previous stagings in
October. Palmer Square wants to tie it in with its "Arts in the
Square Festival." And this year, as last, the performance caps
more than two weeks of readings and workshops, a total of 12 community
events, taking place in town as well as on the green. This year, for
the first time, free tickets can be picked up ahead of time at sponsor
Fleet Bank for what Princeton Rep bills as "free reserved priority
And this year, with the sound under the auspices of One Dream Sound
Company, everybody will be miked. And more.
L’Amoroso ensemble will play Elizabethan and Baroque music for an
hour before performances, and you can picnic on the green beforehand.
Bring your own food or buy it on the green along with other items,
"They’d threaten the actors in Shakespeare’s time at the Globe
with oranges," Liberatori, director of "Twelfth Night,"
tells us in a phone interview.
Shakespeare in the Square began humbly in 1995 with Princeton Rep
presenting scenes on the green from "Hamlet," "The Merry
Wives of Windsor," and "As You Like It." For its second
year, this time on a constructed, elevated stage (and with an erratic
sound system), the group performed "The Comedy of Errors,"
one of the earliest Shakespeare plays, on two weekend days; on Sunday
a violent storm closed the performance. For its third year, on a
cold October weekend in 1997, back down on the green, using the trees
as wings to duck behind, the group presented "As You Like It,"
and last year, around the same trees, it performed "Much Ado About
You’ve already seen "Twelfth Night," this comedy of disguise
and several loves and mistaken identity? This play about male and
female twins separated by a shipwreck? This most musical of all
plays? The comic characters of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek,
Feste, the clown, and Malvolio are old familiars? Guaranteed you’ve
never seen a production like this one, because it is set in New
in the late 1920s and early ’30s.
The play, as written, is set in Illyria, "a mysterious, romantic,
and slightly dangerous places," says Liberatori. "Transposing
it to New Orleans retains those qualities, while giving it a more
accessible edge to our audience." Also, Liberatori lived in New
Orleans for two years. "With set limitations — we can’t place
anything on the green that will in any way harm it — our pieces
have to be highly suggestive of the place, and New Orleans has very
recognizable architecture," she says. The production will use
some of the cast-iron grillwork characteristic of New Orleans. And
some of Feste’s songs are arranged in Southern, bluesy idiom.
Liberatori says she picked the immediate pre-Depression
period because of its accessibility, "while it also retains some
of the romance and the magic of Shakespeare’s play. The period prior
to the repeal of Prohibition has a certain mystique for people. It
had such an elegant, sophisticated quality, and it retains a certain
feeling of class distinction that is very important in several scenes
in `Twelfth Night’," she says. "Also, the costuming of that
period is gorgeous."
"The play," she says, "has examples of the several
love can take." And, considering Malvolio, "You reap what
"Twelfth Night," notes Liberatori, is a sort of
of Shakespeare’s comedies." Like "As You Like It," there’s
a female character who disguises herself as a man. And like "A
Comedy of Errors" there are twins, but in "Twelfth Night"
they’re look-alike brother and sister. (Both performed on the green
in previous years.)
Liberatori scouted performances of Shakespeare in New York for over
seven months, then had an open call. The play, with a cast of 14,
has been in rehearsal in New York for four weeks. Liberatori has cast
a very boyish actress to play Viola. "I think Shakespeare wanted
to investigate the boyish aspects of the character," she says.
"I think she perfectly fits the description that Malvolio gives
Olivia. I personally have never seen a Viola before who fits that
description. That’s what’s new about this production."
Liberatori made "absolutely" no changes in the script. "We
never change the script. We’re determined to use the First Folio
she emphasizes. "We did do some cuts," she qualifies. "And
a couple of words have been changed for modern clarity."
"This festival is unique because every single event is free. I
think we’re the only theater company in this state that is offering
professional theater for free." While Princeton Rep has been
for all of its 15 years, "we’d love to have a theater space and
be able to do year-round productions of Shakespeare," Liberatori
Shakespeare in the Square has also turned the playwright, born 435
years ago, into a modern social force by busing in Trenton students
both for workshops and performances on the green. "Kids who have
never, ever been to a play in their lives," Liberatori exclaims.
"They don’t even know who Shakespeare is!"
— Joan Crespi
Square, 609-921-3682. L’Amoroso early music ensemble performs
and baroque works by Pachelbel, Purcell, Corello, and Handel, one
hour before the performances. Website:
Friday and Saturday, August 27 and 28, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, August
29, at 2 p.m.
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