From the page to the stage: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents “Twelfth Night” at McKinley Library

By Laura Winn

Out from the page and onto the stage, the words of Shakespeare will come to life when the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents “Twelfth Night” at McKinley Library on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 3:30 p.m. The free, touring production uses Shakespeare’s original words in a condensed one-hour version of the play that includes full costumes, props and original music composed by the company. The actors will also bring two lucky audience members on stage to participate in the play. After the performance, the cast will answer questions from the audience.

Photo by Victor Bittorf

“Twelfth Night” is a romantic comedy that tells the story of twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Disguised as a boy, Viola falls for Duke Orsino, who is in love with Countess Olivia. Believing Viola is a man, the Countess then falls in love with her.

“It’s Shakespeare’s most heartfelt comedy,” said director Carl Holvick, who is also the Education Director and a Resident Artist with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, which is in its 35th year.

“Twelfth Night” combines traditional comedic aspects with dramatic aspects, explained Holvick. “There’s the clowning, dancing and antics. There’s also the fights, moments of love, passion, and the darker sides of mourning the loss of a loved one and feeling what’s like to have your heart broken.”

“To balance all of those elements together in a single play is one of Shakespeare’s greatest feats,” said Holvick. “It makes people laugh, and it has an emotional impact on the audience.”

The production, which tours the state of California with stops at schools, libraries and retirement centers, is truly an ensemble piece with lots of collaborative input from the actors who double-up on roles and re-purpose props to represent different objects and scenery throughout the play, said Holvick.

“With the touring production, we’re able to reach thousands of people–all kinds of audiences–and bring a professional production of Shakespeare to them locally,” said Holvick.

The local McKinley Library performance is an opportunity for all ages to enjoy Shakespeare. “Parents can introduce their kids to his work at the event. Students can see a free production related to their coursework, and aspiring thespians can come and be inspired,” said Cathy Crosthwaite, the Programming and Partnership Coordinator for the Sacramento Public Library.

Photo by Victor Bittorf
Brandon Brooks as Sir Anrdrew Aguecheek and Ted Zoldan as Sir Toby Belch in
Shakespeare On Tour’s Twelfth Night

As an educational tie-in to the performance, the McKinley and McClatchy libraries will have displays highlighting Shakespeare’s work. Literature and stories that have been influenced by Shakespeare’s prose will also be featured.
“We really enjoy being able to take the inspiration that comes from great literature and bringing it to life for– and often with–the community,” Crosthwaite added.

In celebration of its 35th year, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival will also present a series of free, short, performances of “35 Famous Speeches in 35 Famous Places” around San Francisco, beginning February 16 before culminating the season with “Hamlet” at Free Shakespeare in the Park. The touring production of “Twelfth Night” continues through April 8, with many dates still available to book.

The McKinley Library is located at 601 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento.

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