Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester will present the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night September 1-23.
The director Alex Scott-Flaherty and actress Linda Starkweather, who will play Malvolio, discussed the production Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.
“”Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most-beloved plays with a case of mistaken identity — women dressing as men — and we set it in the 1920s in a speakeasy with live music,” said Scott-Flaherty. “We’re diving in. You can see our version with an all-female cast.”
Starkweather said the twist on this Shakespeare production, with no men in the cast, is all fair. “For four hundred and so many years, men have been playing these roles, and women want to do Shakespeare. This is really fun. It also puts a different spin on things when you have a woman playing a man playing a woman, and he’s making comments about women that may be a little sexist. When you realize that it’s coming from a woman, audiences take this pause and go, oh, yeah… that does sound kind of weird, doesn’t it?”
Scott-Flaherty added, “Shakespeare having his all-man cast was doing that intentionally in the lines. He knew you were watching a man playing a woman, and he allowed certain jokes. Yet, when we do it now, the jokes land a completely different way because you have these comments on men. It’s really interesting.”
This adaptation is likely to find a receptive audience in 2017. “It’s a time when we’re questioning identity and the roles that we’re being asked to play in society,” Scott-Flaherty noted. “We want to see theater breaking those same rules and questioning who we see on the stage. That means women playing men sometimes. That means a black man playing George Washington in Hamilton. We get a chance to open up the world we’re looking at.”
Starkweather, who has directed as well, is returning to the stage for the first time in 15 years as “Malvolio” in the show. It’s an opportunity she’s truly enjoying. “It’s fabulous! To get to take those risks? I’ve always been a tomboy, so to step into a man’s role is not hard for me. I’m pretty androgynous. I think in this era of gender fluidity, when we’re questioning all that, and we get to try different things, it’s been fun and we have some really talented actors, lead by someone who is really thoughtful and allows us to discover the role. Rather than saying, okay, I want you to put that cigarette to your mouth on this line. That’s a respect for acting that isn’t always followed. We really appreciate that.”
To see Twelfth Night at Blackfriars, call (585) 454-1260 for tickets, or go online click here.