Theatre Erindale’s latest production of Twelfth Night takes on a gendered-focus interpretation of the Shakespearean play. The cast members from the show draw from the third-year theatre and drama studies class. Cast members Yona Epstein Roth and Kyra Keith, who are also part of the third-year theatre and drama studies class, weighed in on the production’s development.
Notably, Theatre Erindale’s production of Twelfth Night includes two different casts. The two casts are titled “A CAST” and “1 CAST” for identification purposes. Each show night, these two casts alternate in the performance of the same play. Epstein Roth is part of A CAST and Keith is part of 1 CAST. Epstein Roth and Keith are counterparts: they both play the role of the drunkard Toby Belch.
Epstein Roth and Keith revealed that having two different casts were matters of practicality and artistry. In terms of artistry, they emphasized that having two casts will draw emphasis and focus on character development.
“There are ten parts in the show and twenty-one members in our class. So, we distributed the roles practically. Also, this way we could work on the same show, but have two different interpretations. We can learn and watch from each other,” said Epstein Roth, regarding the practical nature of the casting.
“The blocking and technical interpretations were the same,” added Keith, “but the ways in which each person interprets the character is so different. You get two different, and unique, takes on one Shakespearean character.”
For the third-year TDS class, their involvement in the play will be evaluated for their coursework. Epstein Roth and Keith explained that the play is to help expose the class to the process of a production.
“In the play, our class will get a sense of what it’s like to work in a professional production from beginning to end. The mounting of the show is not the main goal,” said Epstein Roth.
“For the third-year class, we focus on the process in which an actor goes through. So, we can learn table work and working together with our classmates. The goal is to learn from the process of putting on a show and to work as a collective,” said Keith.
Meredith Scott, the play’s director and an affiliate of Sheridan College, took a leave of absence from her role following a teaching union strike at Sheridan College. Since this October’s reading week, the cast has had no formal director.
Keith explained that the class continued on despite Scott’s leave. “For a week, as a class we had to work together to push the production program. We did runs and tried to get used to our lines.”
“We wrote music for the show. Most of the music in the show, other than the transitional sounds, are original student works written by our cast members,” Keith added.
In terms of the gendered interpretation of the play, Epstein Roth and Keith explicated that in the play, gender is a fluid concept. However, gender is not the emphasis; rather, the emphasis is on love and how a person falls in love with another.
To illustrate this emphasis, Keith explained, “I play a female character and I fall in love with another female. Having a lesbian couple on stage changes the relationship, makes us ask the question, that, in our world and in Twelfth Night, what does female power mean?”
Epstein Roth plays a male character and falls in love with a female Malvolia, whereas in the original Shakespearean play, Malvolio is a male character. Malvolia wields more power and influence than Epstein Roth’s Toby. For Epstein Roth’s role, then, the questions that arise are “Does gender define power?” and “What does it mean when a woman wields more power in a relationship?”
In the end, Epstein Roth and Keith gave a clear answer to these questions. Gender is not the reason behind certain characters gaining power over others. Instead, their power is attributed to their personalities and idiosyncrasies.
Seeing the play come to fruition, for both Epstein Roth and Keith, is a satisfying feeling.
“We worked all summer for these auditions. From the beginning, our class didn’t know where we were going to go with this, but now it’s exciting that we know what it came out to be,” said Epstein Roth.
“In the beginning, I had jittery nerves. Looking at it now, I feel so comfortable with the people I’m working with.” Keith continued, “It’s a bittersweet moment. I feel accomplished since the process was great and we learned so much. But, at the same time, I don’t want it to end.”