Kentucky Shakespeare Shakes Things Up With “Twelfth Night”

Photo courtesy of KENTUCKY SHAKESPEARE

Photo courtesy of KENTUCKY SHAKESPEARE

Kentucky Shakespeare has done it. They are a theatrical force to be reckoned with in the Louisville community. The creative ability assembled for each and every production is in a class of itself. The first season under the artistic direction of Matt Wallace focused on simplicity, on telling these enduring and classic tales in the best way possible. To be sure, that’s still a primary focus, but in the second year, Kentucky Shakespeare could afford to take some more risks, adding ZFX flying effects to “The Tempest,” creating an authentic Scottish moor complete with live bagpipe music for “Macbeth” and embellishing “The Taming of the Shrew” with a bent reminiscent of Commedia dell’arte. Wallace looks to open his third season as artistic director with a production of “Twelfth Night” that is unlike anything Kentucky Shakespeare has attempted before.

“This is the first time we’ve produced something to be performed exclusively at an indoor theatre, not a remount or transfer,” says Wallace. That’s right. For the first time ever, Kentucky Shakespeare will mount an off-season production that is meant to be performed indoors. This move is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it affords the company a wider performance window, consequently giving it more opportunity to generate interest and get its work seen and also create revenue to support the rest of the season. “This is a big one. It’s long been a goal of the company to do something like this – an indoor, ticketed production in the off-season that could help support our work throughout the year, including our summer season of free Shakespeare in Central Park. My goals remain to expand our reach in the community – touring to more parks (21 currently scheduled) and schools throughout the state, making our work accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to afford the price of a ticket. In my third season, my goal is to continue to strive for excellence, to become more efficient and raise the bar with the quality work we put out there,” Wallace elaborates.

Another reward for producing a show in the winter is that a completely different cadre of actors is available than those who are free during the summer months. “There are so many talented actors in this area; several of them teach full-time and aren’t available to join us in the summer, such as Brian (Hinds), Georgette (Kleier) and Jordan (Price). But with this production, we rehearsed nights and weekends and were able to utilize them. It’s also been fun working with some folks new to the company and some of our Kentucky Shakespeare veterans,” explains Wallace. In fact, Wallace always attempts to cast his Kentucky Shakespeare shows with as much local talent as possible, but according to him, the entire cast, design team and crew of “Twelfth Night” resides right here in the local community.

As far as the approach for this production goes, Wallace says that things will be more traditional this time around: “With our first indoor winter show as the official Shakespeare company of the Commonwealth I wanted to present a full-on Elizabethan production on a grander scale. This includes a lot of live music and dance. We’ve collaborated with Jack Ashworth, Renaissance music specialist from UofL, and choreographer Barb Cullen. As always, even while exploring a period, the ‘modern’ dimension for me is clarity in the storytelling, to make these 400-year-old words feel relevant today. This production opens on the twelfth day of Christmas, a time of revelry and hijinks, and that’s the spirit we’re after.”

Despite the overhead and unique challenges of producing during off-season and in a rented space, Kentucky Shakespeare and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts worked together closely to keep tickets affordable, and Wallace stresses that the annual festival in Central Park will always be free: “We are the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the United States. I don’t want anything to take away from that. For years, the struggle of the company has been finding creative and successful funding avenues to be able to give away our summer festival for free. This is one of those opportunities.” So help Wallace keep things that way by attending this warm, rousing comedy for the harsh winter months. The production opened on Tuesday, January 5 (the actual Twelfth Night!) and runs through Sunday, January 10. With enough community support for the endeavor, who knows what Wallace and Kentucky Shakespeare will be able to accomplish next? VT