BYU Young Company takes ‘Twelfth Night’ to the wild west

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BYU Young Company took the timeless tale by William Shakespeare and added their own comedic, western twist to it. Directed by Associate Professor of Theater Megan Sanborn Jones, ‘Twelfth Night’ will set stage in the 1950’s old west from Feb. 3-13 at the Nelke Theatre.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
The cast of Twelfth Night (clockwise from left center), Costner Henson, Savanah Smith, Andrew Smith, Sherry Kopischke, Scott Jackson, Jacob Baird, Olivia Ockey and Cameron Bridston pose in costume. Twelfth Night will be performed for two weeks at BYU. (BYU Photo)

“This isn’t just where you see each other during the evenings for two weeks and then it’s over,” Jones said.

Jones explained that the eight-member cast will perform the show for the next two weeks on campus and then tour to elementary schools all over the state to perform throughout the semester.

Savanah Smith, a senior majoring in BFA acting, shared how this unique performance format will help her in multiple ways.

“BYU students here typically don’t put on a show for longer than three to four weeks. So this gives us the opportunity to remount a show way more than that,” Smith said. “I wanted to make a show that I have to do 100 times – fresh every time.”

Smith also said regularly performing for a young audience will give her the opportunity to have a positive impact on others.

“Children’s theater is a really awesome way to influence a pretty substantial amount of people,” Smith said. “I remember when I was a kid watching others – it’s such an influential time.”

Jones said that with the high volume of performances week after week, it was important to find enthusiastic students who could support one another.

“One of the things that I look for when I cast a show is a good attitude, a willingness to work hard, and kindness. I am pleased to report that they are all of those things,” Jones said. “The thing that is most impressive to me is their good will – they’ve got that in excess.”

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Oliva (Savanah Smith, left) and Duke Orsino (Scott Jackson, right) fight over Cesario (Sherry Kopischke, center) as they perform Twelfth Night. (BYU Photo)

Cast members of the production have planned an interactive workshop for sixth-graders after each show as part of their tour to elementary schools. They hope to inspire the young students with that same good will and happy-go-lucky attitude, according to Smith.

“The moral of our show is ‘be true to yourself,'” Smith, who acts as Olivia in the play, said. “That is what our workshop is based around – having the kids be able to have fun, be silly, act themselves and not worry about being like anyone else.”

The play was adapted by grad student Rick Curtiss, who had to take the three-hour script and consolidate it to a 50 minute show.

Christian Riboldi, a junior from Saratoga Springs, Utah, has been working alongside Curtiss and Jones as a dramaturg for ‘Twelfth Night.’ From making packets about Shakespeare for sixth-grade classes, to audience outreach projects, Riboldi said he is pleased with how everything has come together.

“My favorite thing will be to see the kids’ reactions and how they enjoy it,” Riboldi said.

Senior Sherry Kopischke, who acts as Viola/Cesario in the play, said often times when children are exposed to Shakespeare, they think that it is boring or out-of-date. Kopischke shared how they have created a play format that will help children better appreciate Shakespeare’s writings.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Olivia (Savanah Smith, center) sings a love song, backed by Maria (Olivia Ockey), Sir Toby Belch (Jacob Baird), and Feste (Cameron Bridston). The group will be performing at various elementary schools in Utah. (BYU Photo)

“Putting [Twelfth Night] in to this old western, fun, over-the-top land makes Shakespeare relatable to our audience,” Kopischke said.

Kopischke said through her character she has learned the importance of ‘being yourself’ and hopes that this message will sink in with all who see the performance.

“If you are not yourself, you can get yourself in to trouble,” Kopischke said. “It’s silly, but I think that some people have a really hard time being themselves and instead dress up to be someone they are not.”

Jones said that she is grateful for such a wonderful ensemble of students who allow their unique talents shine.

“They are just lovely, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Jones said.

Tickets for ‘Twelfth Night’ can be purchased online or at the BYU Tickets Office.

 

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