Theatre students rehearse for ‘Twelfth Night’

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It is late, after 10 p.m. on a Monday. Classes are over and most of the students and faculty are gone for the day, but in one corner of the Theatre Department, the cast and crew of the CSUN production of Shakespeare’s classic “Twelfth Night,” deliver a passionate and funny performance in a full-dress rehearsal before their show opens on Nov. 18 in the Little Theatre.

Like the old sports truism, “How you practice is how you play,” the cast practiced like it was opening night on the “Great White Way.”

In an era where sex sells everything, it would be easy to point out all the sex Shakespeare already put into “Twelfth Night” to hype up the play.

“It is full of sex,” said Daniel Mahler, a sophomore theatre major who has worked on the on the production for six weeks.

Sex was the first thing that came to mind when Mahler was asked why his fellow students should see a play set in the “days of yore,” he said.

It could be prudent to point out the intrigue embedded in the plot by a writer known for his shocking twists and turns.

“A world where things are not what they seem,” is how Professor Melissa Chalsma, director of the student production, described Shakespeare’s story.

Chalsma, a part-time faculty member, putting in a full-time effort, has been on staff for two years agreed with Mahler, “there is a lot of sex,” she said (not to digress.)

The first thing that came to the mind of the director was that it related to sex, or at least the sexy updating on two key central characters in the play.

“They are Bond-esque Girls,” said Chalsma, of parts of Valentine and Fabian serve as emissaries of the duke, Orsino.

The parts, played by Lauren Lees and Kat dela Rosa, respectively, were originally written for men, but have now been re-cast as women in one a few subtle updates of the classic story.

If everyone loves a clown and people enjoy laughter it could help ticket sales, since “Twelfth Night” is a comedy and that one of the central characters is a jester, a clown in days gone by.

The most interesting thing about the dress rehearsal of “Twelfth Night” is not the sex, intrigue, comedy, drunkenness, wrongful imprisonment, and cross dressing. Rather it is the character Viola who has a secret already written into this amazing story.

The most interesting thing about the practice for the production is that after six weeks of seeing the same scenes and hearing the same jokes over and over, the crew still reacts to every moment as if they are experiencing it for very first time.

“The actors are so excited about it,” said Chalsma who summed up the crews reaction. “Any audience likes to see actors enjoying themselves on stage.”

If “Twelfth Night,” the first Shakespearian production to be held at the school in more than five years, can inspire the kind of performance that excites a crew that by now knows every twist and turn like the lines on their hand, why not do more Shakespeare?

“It is something that the students want to do,” said Chalsma.

With the department limited to nine productions a year and a requirement to produce only one “non-contemporary time piece” like “Twelfth Night,” it is easy to see why more Shakespeare is not on the Theatre Department schedule.

Opening on Nov. 18 and running through Nov. 20, the cost to attend the show is $10 for students and $15 for general admission.

“Twelfth Night” will take hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday and re-open on Nov. 30 and continue through Dec. 4.

Darren Dickerson can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.