Ashley Adams is a fraternal twin, and she’s playing a fraternal twin in Swine Palace’s production of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night.
The play is the second and final production in the theater’s SummerFest series. It opens Tuesday in the Studio Theatre inside the LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building.
Adams takes on the role of the play’s main character, Viola, who survives a shipwreck off the coast of Illlyria and loses track of her twin brother, Sebastian, in the chaos.
She believes he has died, so she disguises herself as a young man named Cesario and enters the service of the ultimate romantic, Duke Orsino.
Orsino is in love with Olivia and uses Viola as a mediator between Olivia and himself. But Olivia falls in love with Viola’s alter ego Cesario, and Viola falls in love with Orsino.
And what of Sebastian? He’s played by Amar Atkinson, who is not a twin. But, he said, he’s learned about being one in his role opposite Adams.
“And I can understand Viola’s feelings when she thinks she’s lost her brother, because when you’re born a twin, you feel like you’re always with someone,” Adams said.
Both Adams, of South Carolina, and Atkinson, of Atlanta, are first-year students in the LSU Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts program.
“We live only an hour apart, but we didn’t meet until we came to LSU,” Adams said.
Swine Palace veteran Ben Koucherik plays Orsino and Addie Barnhart will be Olivia. Barnhart made her Swine Palace debut in the company’s SummerFest production of The Merchant of Venice in June. She also is a first-year student in the department’s Master of Fine Arts program. “We have a few veterans who have parts in our SummerFest shows, but the rest of the cast is new,” said George Judy, Swine Palace’s artistic director and director of this production. “We have a whole new crop of students this year.” They’re playing out what Judy calls Shakespeare’s greatest comedy, written at the time the bard was working on his tragedies. Twelfth Night was first performed on Feb. 2, 1602. The play’s melancholy romance is offset by a mega dose of comedy.
“And then there’s Olivia’s servant, Malvolio,” Judy said. “He’s pompous, and Shakespeare refers to him as a Puritan.”
Ironically, the Puritans shut down all the theaters in England a couple of years after this play was produced. As for this show, it will be a 90-minute, family-friendly production.
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