COLCHESTER, VT — Elvis Presley and the Beatles find their way into Saint Michael’s College’s spring Main Stage production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, with socially aware, playful and innovative direction from adjunct acting teacher Melissa Stern Lourie, a veteran Vermont actor and theater educator.
“I want to de-mystify Shakespeare,” said Lourie. “Twelfth Night is a celebration of life and of music. I want our audience to have fun, to enjoy the music and the very human and identifiable characters. The play has a lot to say about love and identity, so it’s not just silly. It’s a meditation on human folly and human complexity.”
The production will run March 2-5, 2022 at 7 p.m. each evening in the McCarthy Arts Center Theatre on the Saint Michel’s campus, with free admission, first-come, first served. Audience members are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test conducted within 72 hours of the performance.
Director Lourie explained her creative choice of setting this production in the 1960s. “Because Twelfth Night is about revelry and rebellion and because it contains a lot of music, I thought it would do very well in the 1960s, an era when the strictures of society are loosening, and many people are challenging social norms,” said Lourie. “I often find music as the way in when thinking about how to set a Shakespeare play. Particular songs will strike me as expressive of the essence of the play or parts of the play.”
Another factor in her choice of Twelfth Night is that she “needed a play with good female parts as I knew my actor pool would be mostly female.” In addition, “there is so much gender ambiguity in this play (which was originally performed by all men), I felt like it would be fun to have women play some of the male characters as well.” She said the play “is playful, silly and rich with comedic situations and characters.”
Here is the cast for this coming Saint Michel’s production of Twelfth Night: Viola, a lady of Messaline shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, Ava Magoon ’22; Olivia, an Illyrian countess, Mariah Hunt ’24; Maria, her waiting-gentlewoman, Sadie Chamberlain ’25;Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s kinsman, Eric Reid-St. John*;Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Sir Toby’s companion, Jason Lorber**; Malvolio, steward in Olivia’s household, Madeline Shanley ’23; Feste, Olivia’s fool or jester, Art Resch ’24; Fabian, a friend and comrade of Sir Toby, Mckenzie Rowbotham ’24; Orsino, duke of Illyria; James Murphy ’24; Valentine, gentleman serving Orsino, and other roles, Aimee Turcotte ’23; Curio, gentleman serving Orsino, and other roles, Gabe Kelsey ’24; Sebastian, viola’s twin brother; Corban Ridlon ’22; Servant to Olivia, Matt Tupaj ’23; *guest artist; **guest artist and faculty spouse of Nat Lew
Others involved in the production are: Scenic & Lighting Designer – John Paul Devlin; Costume Designer – Peter Harrigan; Sound Designer – Julia Moriarty; Choreographer – Mckenzie Rowbotham ’24; Production Stage Manager – Ainsley Cook ’24; Assistant Stage Manager – Matt Tupaj ’23.
“Working with the St. Mike’s cast and crew has been a great pleasure,” the director said. “The students have been absorbing so much information with ease and enthusiasm. They are bright and curious and I can’t wait to see what they do onstage. There is a special spirit of cooperation and community at St. Mike’s and this is clearly reflected in their attitudes towards this project. I also have the privilege of working with the Theater Departments professors, Peter Harrigan and John Devlin, both experts in their fields of costume design and scenic/lighting design. It is really nice to have all these resources at my fingertips!”
Lourie’s long immersion in theater includes being the founder and artistic director of the Middlebury Actors Workshop from 2001 to the present. With an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater, she has taught theater and directed a great many productions through the years, in Vermont and elsewhere. She has been teaching at Saint Michael’s since fall of 2019. Said Peter Harrigan of the Saint Michel’s Fine Arts/Theatre faculty, a frequent Main Stage show director, of Lourie’s role with Twelfth Night, “We occasionally have guest directors and wanted to take advantage of her expertise with Shakespeare.”
The director feels Shakespeare’s stories are anything but boring, and his characters are totally human and relatable. “The subject matter is not academic or highbrow,” she said. “In fact, it’s very earthy. Shakespeare’s genius was to encompass all human experience, without judgement, and to show us ourselves as we really are, then and now.”
“Foolery doth walk about the orb. It shines everywhere, like the sun,” Lourie said, quoting a famous line from Twelfth Night
About Saint Michael’s College
Saint Michael’s College, founded in the great Catholic intellectual tradition, which also recognizes the principles of social justice and compassion, is a selective, fully residential Catholic college in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. Our closely connected community delivers internationally-respected liberal arts and graduate education near Burlington, one of the country’s best college towns. To prepare for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, young adults here grow intellectually, socially, and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other and their world.
Student cast members in Twelfth Night at Saint Michael’s this week are, left to right, Mariah Hunt, James Murphy and Ava Magoon.