RB High play written to make 'Twelfth Night' more understandable

Rancho Bernardo High students, from left, Dorian Parker, Thomas Nieman and Rune Maxwell rehearsing a scene from “Twelfth Night.”  Photo by Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Rancho Bernardo High students, from left, Dorian Parker, Thomas Nieman and Rune Maxwell rehearsing a scene from “Twelfth Night.” Photo by Elizabeth Marie Himchak

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak

Rancho Bernardo High is presenting an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which the director said should make it easier to understand.

The play can be seen at 7 tonight (Thursday) and Friday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for general admission. Purchase before the show in the RB High Performing Arts Center, 13010 Paseo Lucido.

The comedic “Twelfth Night” is about a twin brother and sister, Sebastian (Sam Carnevale) and Viola (Dorian Parker), who are separated when shipwrecked. Both think the other is dead and Viola dresses as a young man in order to work for Orsino (Rune Maxwell). He uses Viola to woo Olivia (Gillian Norton), who falls for the “young man” rather than Orsino, who Viola has grown to love.

Meanwhile, various friends of Olivia play a prank on her steward Malvolio (Shantel Cowell), making her think Olivia has romantic feelings for her. When Sebastian arrives, confusion ensues until the happy ending.

To make the play more accessible to students, Director Marie Morris said she set the play within a college lecture by Professor Bates (Thomas Nieman) and illustrated by his teacher’s assistant Quincy (Michael Lin). The play is interrupted by their conversation in order to explain its many twists and turns. In addition, Bates’ vision of the play has it set in 1950s Paris.

Morris said updating Shakespeare’s plays is common and she picked Paris because, as Quincy states, “‘Twelfth Night’ is a romantic comedy and Paris is the ‘City of Love,’ so doesn’t it make sense to set it in Paris?”

As for the breaks for explanation, Morris said after teaching for seven years she knows where students have difficulties due to language and convoluted storylines when studying Shakespeare’s works. Since the primary audience is the student body “it needs to be accessible. We’re helping to clarify the storyline and language.”

To further assist, Paul Messerle’s advanced computer graphic arts class created animated videos that will be shown as part of the production.

While some students were “totally scared” to tackle a Shakespearian play, Morris said by working on their comprehension they became more confident. “It’s my third year directing ... I know they can do it.”

Other changes including turning Malvolio into a female role. Senior Shantel Cowell said since Malvolio has a crush on Olivia that meant her character ended up being a lesbian. Since playing that has been her biggest challenge, Cowell said she has focused on the character’s more comedic aspects.

Morris said she made the switch because she knew Cowell could pull it off and since the script has a female character pretending to be male, there was no reason to try to make Cowell appear as male too.

Senior Morgan-Lee Parpart, who plays Maria — Olivia’s maid, described her character as “very saucy” and among those playing the trick on Malvolio. “My biggest challenge is remembering the cues, not the lines, because a lot of my scenes are conversational and come up randomly,” she said.

Junior Rune Maxwell is making his theatrical debut as Orsino, a Parisian nobleman. “My biggest challenge was learning how to bring the performance over the top in a humorous way,” he said, adding his first play has been “a lot of fun.”

The cast members are Sam Carnevale, Shantel Cowell, Shannon Cowgill, Natalie Fowler, Sara Ghadimi, Cindy Huang, Maycie Kindred, Michael Lin, Dakota Nank, Thomas Nieman, Gillian Norton, Rune Maxwell, Dorian Parker, Morgan-Lee Parpart, Kenny Rayburn, Amanda Risher, Nikoo Samee, Jake Schraeder, Karen Schraeder, Joel Seagraves, Lizzie Stone, Emily Weinberg and Kelly Zhao. Assistant directors are Amanda Dasteel and Alex Schlientz.

   
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