Play On

Danny Stock

WHAT’S THE STORY?

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, twins Sebastian and Viola are separated in a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria, a country ruled by a lovesick Duke Orsino. Each presumes the other is dead. Viola disguises herself as a man (Cesario) to find favor in the court of the Duke, with whom she falls in love. The Duke Orsino sends Cesario/Viola to win for him the love of the Countess Olivia, who mourns her dead brother and scorns the Duke. Olivia instead falls for Cesario/Viola. The misadventures of Olivia’s court, including the fool Feste, the drunk Toby Belch, and the servants Maria and Malvolio, feature prominently. Meanwhile, Sebastian is rescued by Antonio and brought to Illyria, where he is mistaken for Cesario. Spoiler alert: Olivia marries him, Viola reveals herself, and the Duke redirects his misplaced love to Viola.

THE REVIEW

Shakespeare’s Illyria materialized in the High School box during Twelfth Night The Musical, and it was bursting with all the colorful characters and jazz-funk swing of New Orleans that theatergoers could fairly fancy that it truly were—as Viola (Caleigh Vergeer ’21) wondered—“the place where you go when you die.” The opening number, Play On, drew the audience into the rich musical experience to follow. “If music be the food of love, play on!” they sang. With a thudding kick drum to drive the rhythm, the built-out sets (complete with grey cobbles and a Spanish moss-draped tree upstage thanks to co-set designers Asta Jorgensen ’20, Zoe Ferland ’20, and Maddie Rapelyea ’20), and the soundscape (including bird and frog sounds thanks to sound designers Noah Abramson ’21 and Noah Braun ’20) to transport us, our High School performers carried us through all the misadventures and mistaken identities of this old but reimagined tale. 

The musical was created for the mission-driven Public Theater New York’s international initiative Public Works, which seeks to ensure that theater is accessible to, representative of, and performed in partnership with a diverse public audience. The Public Works “of, by, and for the people” shows are a “radically inclusive” representation of diverse faces and voices by reimagining less inclusive source texts (e.g. Shakespeare), and notably involve the audience in the storytelling. The rights to the musical were only just released last spring when director Laura Rosberg pounced. “The perfect GDS show,” she wrote in the program. Scripts and recordings weren’t even available until the end of September as company meetings began. The brand new show presented an exciting opportunity for GDS to put on a show that not one of the students had ever seen, and at the same time, it challenged the students to construct the performance space and inhabit roles as they were encountering the material for the first time. 

Gigi Silla ’20 (Olivia) echoed Laura’s sentiment that Twelfth Night is an important show for our GDS community. “This show strikes an incredible balance between being both escapist and meaningful,” she said. “Twelfth Night is goofy and outrageous and takes place in a world overflowing with color, but it is also conscious of its audience, asking viewers not only to ‘see through the eyes of another,’ [the show’s closing number] but also to be critical of our notions about gender, sexuality, class, and even religion.”
 
Logically, this review ought to begin with the “greatest” character of all—or so he said of himself in his self-aggrandizing soliloquy/song Greatness—the Countess’s steward Malvolio (Julian Galkin ’22). From his trembling shoulders early in the show as Feste (Jacqueline Metzger-Taylor ’23) and Toby Belch (Mihir Kesavan ’20) skewered him in the musical roast You’re the Worst to his wild, greedy eyes in his wishful number Count Malvolio, and finally his delightfully haughty laughs in Greatness, Galkin as Malvolio captured the full range of emotions in the show. “Finding the humanity in such an unlikeable character, seeing the world through his eyes, and asking questions about his thinking impacted how I was able to understand his perspective and his delusions of grandeur,” Julian explained. “I found distinct answers that are helping me honor this character who I feel has been so wronged by the world. And I’m giving all the humanity, love, and acceptance from myself (Julian) to the role while honoring Malvolio’s truth on stage.”

Jacqueline, as the show’s fool-musician Feste (first performed by the show’s originator and composer Shaina Taub) also belted big, soulful tunes like Is This Not Love? supported by the tenor saxophone of Nolan Sheridan ’21. She, too, found the character within herself. “Half of the exploration [guiding our understanding of such a new show] was definitely thanks to Laura,” Jacqueline said. “A lot of it is also personal, so you are not just playing a character but playing an alternate reality version of yourself, a version of yourself born in Illyria, where you are a—oh, I don’t know [with a knowing laugh]—a busking musician.”

Performers climbed up into the audience seating for a few numbers, singing and clapping around them, in further support of the ideals of inclusivity and participation at the foundation of the show. The show’s lights conveyed emotion, too, thanks to student light designers Gil Avni-Heller ’20, Ben Adomaitis ’21, and Harrison Lundy ’21 under the direction of technical director Christal Boyd. From foreboding strobes during the opening storm and shipwreck to the saturating mood lighting lifting from the floor, theatergoers were drawn in among the players to feel along with them.

Onstage, the actors’ voices revealed the transformations their characters went through as they happened. Audience members could genuinely feel each emotion crawl over their skin during Caleigh’s impressive vocal performances as Cesario/Viola. And the show’s diva, Olivia as portrayed by Gigi, turned herself inside-out both within a single song (If You Were My Beloved) and more globally as her haughtiness fades towards the latter half of the show. “We don't get to see that side of her until well into the second half of the play,” Gigi explained, “but her reversal from pain and grief to joy and love is one of the reasons why I find this play so compelling. It is a comedy that is pointed and purposeful and demands that audience members examine their own position in ‘the whirligig of time.’”

And so even as the characters—expertly portrayed by our High School actors—peel back layer upon layer of emotion onstage, audience members are invited to observe how characters’ true selves are laid bare in spite of, and sometimes because of, their mistaken identities and power inequities. Twelfth Night is a reminder, carried most-explicitly in the closing number, that should we dare to see the world through the eyes of another—“open our hearts to each other’s beat, what a better world it could be.” For our community, the show is a gift wrapped not only in the characters’ colorful clothing (shoutout to costume designer Abby Brickman ’20), but also through all the bawdy, sweet, haughty, desperate emotions the High School students bring into the theater. 

The success of Twelfth Night is the result of many weeks of dedication and enthusiasm from nearly one sixth of all students at the High School plus a number of incredible faculty. The full list of leadership, cast, crew, administrators, designers, and orchestra members is listed below. Caps off to all!

LEADERSHIP
Director: Laura Rosberg
Technical Director:  Christal Boyd
Music Director:  Brad Linde
Choreographer:  Maria Watson
Vocal Coach:  Reenie Codelka
Additional Vocal Coach & Viewpoints Artist:  Jordan Friend '10
On Shakespeare, Death & Androgyny:  John Burghardt

CAST
Viola: Caleigh Vergeer ‘21
Olivia: Gigi Silla ‘20
Orsino: Aidan Kohn-Murphy ‘22
Feste: Jacqueline Metzger ‘23
Malvolio: Julian Galkin ‘22
Toby: Mihir Kesavan ‘20
Maria: Stella Tongour ‘22
Andrew: Noah Freedman ‘22
Antonio: Bryce Savoy ‘21
Sebastian: Eli Faber ‘22
Fabian: Mateo Brown ‘21
Officers: Elias Rodriguez ’22, Glace Qiao ‘20 & Leila Jackson '22
Officiant: Elliot Oppenheim ‘21
Horns Player: Max Grosman ‘22

Illyrians:
Thomas Perry ‘22
Elana Spector ‘22
Wesley Brubaker ‘23
Felicia Paul ‘22
Celia Montes-Sharp ‘20
Max Grosman ‘22
Elliot Oppenheim ‘21
Eli Faber ‘22
Bryce Savoy ‘21
 
ADMINISTRATORS, DESIGNERS & CREW
Stage Manager:  Gari Puckrein ‘20 
Stage Manager Mentor:  Will Fitzgerald ‘20
Assistant Stage Manager:  Meyer Leff ‘22
Producers:  Dylan Posey ’21 & Maddie Carroll ‘22
House Manager: Katie Young '23
Box Office Managers:  Emmett Freeman ’21 & Maggie Hacker ‘21
Publisher: Elliot Oppenheim ‘21
Ad Manager: Aidan Kohn-Murphy ‘22
Poster: Fiore Petricone ‘22
Set Designers: Asta Jorgenson ‘20, Maddie Rapelyea ’20 & Zoe Ferland ‘20
Sets Crew Heads: Nick Moiseyev ‘21 & Emmett Freeman ‘21
Costume Designer: Abby Brickman ‘20
Costume Crew Head: Eve Kolker ‘22
Lights & Fx Designers/Heads: Gil Avni-Heller ’20, Ben Adomaitis ’21 & Harrison Lundy ‘21
Sound & Fx Designers: Noah Abramson ’21 & Noah Braun ‘20
Sound Crew Head: Aden Sheingold ‘22
Props Master: Will Fitzgerald ‘20
Props Crew Head: Celia Johnson ‘21
Makeup Designer: Gari Puckrein ‘20
Makeup Crew Head: Carly Paschall ‘22

ORCHESTRA
Brad Linde: Conductor
Topher Dunne: Manager and Bass
Sven Abow: Drums
Reenie Codelka: Piano
Zak Sandler '04: Piano
Collin Waite '20: Piano
Chirs Buckley: Trombone
Bags Davis: Trumpet
Jacob Getlan '22: Guitar
Jake Markarian '22: Soprano Saxophone
Nolan Sheridan '21: Tenor Saxophone
Harrison West '22: Trumpet
 

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