Interviewing the Cast of Twelfth Night

Written by Sam Doherty | July 28, 2022

I had the privilege to interview members of the cast for Penguin’s upcoming Twelfth Night production. I asked about their experience working with their cast and crew, their opinions on how Shakespeare’s play interacts with concepts of gender and gender fluidity, and their thoughts on Penguin’s first youth director!

Q: How has your experience been with this group of people, and Adrian as a director?

Disha (Orsino): Really good, I really like Adrian’s vision. Originally they talked about having this cool time-travel spectacle, and it’s morphed into this cool summer camp theme, which I think is really relatable to teenagers and the Penguin audience, and is very captivating when it comes to the themes that Twelfth Night explores. I think the whole busy love triangles, and the drama that happens, it’s very focused in the setting that Adrian has developed, and I’m really happy that I’m bringing it to life with everyone. And Eileen is a very good stage manager, very organized and on top of everything. Working with the cast is so much fun. I did The Tempest last summer, and I was Prospero, and I gained so many vast friendships through that, and it was such a good experience. Doing this again was also very nice, because I’m learning so much about people who I already considered friends, and I’m making even more friends with others that I am working with in the cast. It’s just overall a really good experience, and I’ve had so much fun going into Duke Orsino and his character, and exploring the canon and the world outside of Twelfth Night and building his backstory and building his motivations and having everyone there who’s kind of like-minded and doing the same is a good experience.

Miranda (Olivia): I think Penguin has cultivated a talented group of people who keep coming back, because a lot of my castmates have been in Penguin shows before, but there are some new ones and it’s really nice to welcome new people into the community.

Emmett (Malvolio): It’s a nice little community, which is what you want with a cast, because you can go to everyone with things you feel comfortable with, and it’s been made to have everyone feel comfortable at all times.

Q: How do you think having a youth director has changed how the show is put on?

Emmett (Malvolio): I think having a youth director definitely changes the experience by a lot, because it makes it so it’s easier to convey some things, I think, because sometimes a director, regardless of age, regardless of anything, will want a specific thing that’s maybe similar to something else, and they’ll say something akin to blah blah blah. And since a lot of times directors are adults, some of the things they compare to or give examples with, are things that at the very least I, since I’m one of the youngest people here, won’t have knowledge of. So having someone who is around the same age as me definitely helps because it makes it easier for me to understand things, especially because the language will be very similar to what I hear.

Harriet (Maria): Well, I think Adrian has some ideas that are a bit different than the classic way of doing it. I feel like a real adult director has been exposed to a certain amount of other directors’ ideas about the show, so it’s interesting that Adrian is being really brave and saying it’s just gonna be this way. It’s fun.

Rudy (Sebastian): I feel like one thing I’ve really liked about having a youth director is that while he’s more in authority you feel closer to the director, when they’re closer in age it’s more like we’re all on the same playing field, but everyone is just listening to this one person who has these ideas. So it’s different than say, Penguin always has pretty young directors, but you look at productions with adult-adult directors and there’s that feeling of they’re the director AND they’re so much older than you, so they’re the one with all the answers. But with youth directing, there’s more communication, because the director can ask people for input more often, and we ask him for input, so it’s an equal exchange of information, which I feel like connects the director with the cast more than if the director was an adult.

Q: How do you think the show tackles concepts of gender and gender fluidity?

Benji (Viola): Well, one of the main characters, Viola, has a story that resonates with a lot of trans people, specifically trans women, having to live in a gender that does not confirm with your own, for a variety of reasons, safety, or just culturally, it’s not accepted. And it’s a little bit different with Viola because she’s a cis woman who has to be a man, but the metaphor still works, and I just think that showing queer characters in a light that is a happy story, it works out well for Viola, like she has a lot of problems throughout the story because it’s a Shakespeare play, but it’s very nice to see a character that fits with your identity.

Disha (Orsino): The script is inherently messaged with themes of gender inclusivity, but I think the cuts that Adrian made and the way he shaped the characters, and the way he included certain scenes here and took out certain lines here that didn’t really add up with modern values, I think are really important in shaping how inclusive we want this to be.

Rudy (Sebastian): Summer camp, specifically gendered summer camps like this one, are definitely a place where identity is usually explored, but is usually explored in secret, because it’s usually not a very welcoming environment for that sort of thing. And having that explicit and constant exploration of identity and love in the summer camp setting, I really love it because the way that it ends is like the experience that people who grew up going to those camps, it’s like a fairy tale ending version of that, and I think it’s awesome, I think it’s so great, and I think it’s very heartwarming and also very funny.

From left to right: Benji, playing Viola; Harriet, playing Maria; Miranda, playing Olivia.

Twelfth Night will be premiering at West Greenlake Park on July 30th at 2pm, and the show will continue on the 31st at the same time!


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