Shakespeare in the Sun (and Shade)

By Lainey S. Cronk on May 16, 2006

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The latest stage performance at Pacific Union College has broken out of the typical stage arrangement with a unique production of Shakespeare’s comic Twelfth Night in the outdoor Angwin Amphitheatre. Director and PUC resident artist Mei Ann Teo has utilized the entire amphitheatre, with actors dialoging, shipwrecking, dancing, and fighting all up and down the wooden bleachers, the stone terrace, the main stage area, and a long blue walkway stretching across the center of the lawn.

“This journey started with the desire to put on a play for the community in this beautiful, underused amphitheatre,” said Teo. “It felt like the perfect fit to do Twelfth Night, combining its carnival associations and romantic nature with the fresh spring air.”

Though the “fresh spring air” was replaced by a spell of hot summer air on the May 14 opening performance and audiences (and actors) were required to protect themselves with sunscreen and parasols, the dedication and talent of the cast and directing team has survived the heat. Freshman Melissa Chrowl said, “I can’t wait until I can see it again. I’ll be more than happy to do it over again—the sun included—because it was definitely worth it!” Rick Wheeler, another freshman who sat in the sunny section of the amphitheatre, called the play “very entertaining and comically whimsical” and said that the actors’ excellent performance made him forget the warm weather.

Inspired by Anne Bogart’s SITI Company, the cast—which consists of students and one faculty member—began training together in January, working to form a tight-knit and proficient ensemble. Meanwhile, PUC staff and students and Napa and Bay Area theatre professionals collaborated to direct and produce the play.

This varied and dedicated team has brought Twelfth Night to its light-hearted, picnic-style, and admission-free run, complete with original music, ice cream concessions, and—of course—a happy ending.