Twelfth Night or What I Would

Last Saturday, Jim and I went to the Adobe Theater to see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The prompt for this outing was because our friend Rowan Derrick (one of the Los Alamos Five, for those of you who read the acknowledgments in Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart) was playing the role of Olivia. Tori Hansen, another member of that exclusive cabal, was the Lighting Designer.

We may have gone to see our friends’ artistry at work, but we ended up enjoying the production on its own merits. The acting was excellent – especially for an amateur production. The level of experience among the actors started with a complete novice, moved to a very sophisticated thirteen year-old, and included both a long-time high school drama teacher and a sometime film actor. Oddly enough, this mingling of levels of experience added to our pleasure and stimulated much conversation thereafter.

Before we attended the play, Jim had asked me if I knew why it was called Twelfth Night. I’d been wondering the same thing (a lot of years have gone by since I’d last read the play), so I went and looked it up. It turns out that Twelfth Night has dual significance. First, it was the last day of the church Christmas calender, the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ Child.

Secondly, and more appropriate for the play, in Shakespeare’s time, Twelfth Night was also celebrated as the “Feast of Fools,” a time when the ordinary rules of society were abandoned or inverted, permitting cheerful chaos to reign. Therefore, Twelfth Night or What You Will (this is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays to have an alternative title) is a play about expectations turned upside down and inside out.

After we’d seen the play, Jim and I discussed how well the title fit the action. He was probably ready to let go of the subject after that. However, I wasn’t.

Possibly one of the greatest joys – or deficits, depending on your point of view – of being a writer is that once a story grabs hold of you, it’s very hard to leave it alone. Therefore, the next morning, hardly before his coffee was in him, poor Jim was subjected not only to my assessment of how Shakespeare’s play could be reinterpreted (with a special emphasis on the theme of inversion), but also to a thumbnail sketch of a sequel to the play based upon this reinterpretation.

No. Don’t worry. I’m not going to go into all of that here. It would take quite a while. Anyhow, maybe one of these days, I’ll write it.


4 Responses to “Twelfth Night or What I Would”

  1. Debbie Says:

    Ah, I see a new novel sliding around in the primordial ooze of your mind. I just love it when something captures me like that.

  2. Masinger Says:

    Twelfth Night is one of my favorite of Shakepeare’s plays. I’ve seen several versions and one of my favorites is a production I saw in college w/everyone in blue jeans and period-looking shirts. A fairly minimalist production but done with great earnestness and intelligence, nicely paced. Lingers in the mind even now, more than thirty years later.

  3. Joanna Campbell Slan Says:

    Jane, you are so right. I’ve subjected my whole family to the Hero’s Journey. So last night when we were watching “The Matrix,” my husband was chanting, “Hero’s refusal of the call, point of no return…”

    Poor man. And to think I did that to him.

  4. Tom Says:

    Hope you do. {grin}

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