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Shakespeare by the Sea XXII: TWELFTH NIGHT

Stephen Brown

    Jupiter’s Carlin Park will be shrouded in mystery July 12-15 and 19-22, as the Seabreeze Amphitheater transforms into a deserted island, the site of an inscrutable plane crash, for the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s seminal event, Shakespeare by the Sea XXII. On the stage, William Shakespeare’s classic comedy the Twelfth Night is reimagined in a modern and contemporary light while maintaining the witty repartee and intricate plotlines that have come to define the Bard of Avon.

Twelfth Night - Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival - Shakespeare by the Sea - Jupiter - Carlin Park

   The Twelfth Night is nothing new to the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival, which is revisiting the comedy for the third time in the festival’s 22-year-old history. However, “this production is a bit more complex then some of the ones we have done in the past,” says Executive Producer Kermit Christman. With pop culture cues like the television series Lost and the novel I was Amelia Earhart, the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival has infused a conceptual contemporary setting to the 400-year-old-classic. “We took that kind of concept, where essentially a plane has gone down, they are on a deserted island and they are in-acting the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, but it is only later in the play that you discover the twist,” Christman say with a grin. “I won’t reveal that to you. … You have to come and see it.”

   While diverging from the play’s original setting, much of Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s production maintains what made the play such a classic. In the original production, the play hinges on one of Shakespeare’s classic comedic devices, a case of mistaken identity, when protagonist Viola finds herself in the middle of a love trapezoid after surviving a shipwreck in the Mediterranean coastal province of Illyria. After a little gender-bending, Viola, under the guise of Cesario, becomes the confidant of Duke Orsino, who is unfalteringly smitten with the widowed countess, Lady Olivia. Through some classic Shakespearean situations, Olivia falls for Cesario, while Viola falls for the Duke, all the while Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, is made the heel of the play, misguided into an unrequited crush on his patron, Lady Olivia. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Viola’s thought-to-be-dead twin brother, comes to the scene and secretly weds Lady Olivia, who thinks he is Cesario (the man moves fast). Confused yet? The story and the entangled mess of emotions put modern soap operas and telenovelas to shame but is completely engaging, pulling in the audience with the witty wordplay and tomfoolery from the secondary characters.

   “The Twelfth Night is so audience friendly,” says Christman, who hopes the contemporary twist and cinematic flourishes added to the production will make Shakespeare even more approachable for the audience. “We are producing something very modern with all the beautiful plots and language of Shakespeare that is also accessible to people. [Shakespeare by the Sea] is really a community event that has been able to bring culture to where we live, which is important.”

   The festival's two past performances of the Twelfth Night each marked a transitional moment in the festival’s evolution, and 2012 is no different. “It has been a lovely and lucky play for us in the transitional years, from the move to Carlin [1990] and the growth of the park [1996],” Christman says. “And here we are, at another transitional stage.” This year’s revival is in celebration of the festival’s move to repertoire performances, featuring two productions in an expanded performance schedule next season. Along with cultural partner, the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival will “open it up a bit,” Christman says, running for three weeks and alternating between two different productions nightly: one a comedy, the other a tragedy. “We really wanted to consolidate our energies into our signature event, Shakespeare by the Seas,” he adds.

Shakespeare by the Sea XXII - Twelfth Night - Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival

   While big things loom on the horizon for the plucky seaside Shakespeare festival, the present is an all-hands-on-deck scenario, with more than 10,000 guests expected this year, all ready to be entertained. “We have a secret feeling this is going to be a big year for us, perhaps bigger than ever because this production is going to be like Disney World,” says Christman with a laugh. “We’re excited, a little bit nervous … but I think it is going to be cool.”


The Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare by the Sea XXII will run for two weeks, July 12-15 and 19-22, at Carlin Park’s Seabreeze Amphitheater. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., with preshow performances by the court jester, Richard Ribuffo, and Twelfth Night taking the stage at 8 p.m. Admission is free (with a $5 suggested donation), and the audience is encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs, picnic baskets (BYOB) and bug spray! Vendors will be on hand serving refreshments. 


Seabreeze Amphitheater

Carlin Park

750 S. A1A

Jupiter, FL 33477



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February 2015