Much can be said about the difficulty of performing Shakespeare’s plays in front of a live audience in the modern world. Today’s numerous distractions (phones, computers, and cameras), make it difficult to sit and focus on a long-winded production written in an older and embellished form of the English language. Concordia University’s newly created Looseleaf Theatre Company is not deterred by this challenge. In fact, the company embraces it. In a stunning move, director Tony Vezner began the production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with a brief prelude asking audience members not to turn off their phones and cameras. Vezner clarified that the cast and crew would be posting updates on social media sites backstage throughout the performance, and that camera flashes would not distract them from performing to the best of their abilities. A novel idea, indeed!
The entire cast clearly mastered the art of performing live in an outdoor venue for, despite various uncontrollable distractions, such as the raucous soccer game in session on the field behind the stage, nothing could affect their concentration and resolve.
While all actors portrayed their prescribed characters incredibly professionally, three actors truly shined. Spencer D. Blair as Feste the Fool brought out the best of both sides of his character. Not only was Blair’s performance quirky and bizarre, but he also played the wiser and wittier aspects of the fool. Alastair James Murden as Andrew Aguecheek pulled off an incredibly nuanced role that could have easily been written off as merely a cowardly knight. Murden’s loveable and naïve approach to Aguecheek created quite the audience favorite. Last but not least, Brandon Kaspar as Toby Belch played not just a drunkard, but a rebel, an older man bored with his station in life who fought against it with the only methods he knew how: drink and tomfoolery. The scenes in which all three interacted transcended mere comedy; Audience members cheered, whooped, and guffawed at their bawdy antics.
The show could not have been such a triumph without the work of the stage and technical crew. Tina Lee as Assistant Technical Director provided the production with very powerful and clear ground microphones. No words were ever difficult to hear or understand. Tim Mueller as Scenic and Properties Designer created a stunning set that seemed to easily withstand interactions with the actors.
The play was an obvious success, and I expect to hear and see much more of this company’s professional productions in the near future.