Twelfth Night à la Dirty Thirties


With the overwhelming backdrop of Grey Mountain and the Yukon wilderness, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Or What You Will) may have to compete for audience attention.

The open-air production of the play takes Shakespeare places no one has yet ventured – to a time of economic depression, prohibition and alcohol-fueled playfulness.

Twelfth Night will run in Shipyards Park, in August, by the innovative DreamNorth Theatre Company that is dedicated to bringing Shakespeare, in its many forms and shapes, to communities Up North and outdoors.

Laura Duralija, co-founder of DreamNorth, says this will be their third outdoor Shakespeare production. The company was developed in April of 2007 to bring outdoor theatre to Whitehorse, in a style similar to that of Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach.

Duralija, an accomplished Toronto artist, is also acting in the play as Viola, the shipwrecked twin who dons a male identity.

This play brings the lively story, of mistaken identity, gender confusion, love and other hijinks, to the outdoor stage. Whitehorse-born-and-raised actor Sam Bergmann-Good is excited to bring open-air theatre to his hometown.

“I’m really excited to be back in the community with my role as Fabian; he’s a character that adds to the madness of the action. He’s involved in the antics but remains respectful to his elders.”

The play, which is accessible and engaging to all, from young children to Shakespeare aficionados, is directed in a non-traditional approach with a theme slightly mirroring today’s current economic climate.

Director Brad Lepp says the environment helped develop the strong characters evident in the play. “We start out mourning and the characters are really able to show their strengths as we move to more-playful aspects.

“I chose the dirty thirties as the big ‘D’ word: depression was drifting in our consciousness this past year.” The set is minimal and sepia-toned in keeping with the dusty memories of the ’30s.

Despite the sepia tint, Twelfth Night is a vibrant story and sometimes it can be hard to nail down the minute details in an outdoor setting, according to Lepp.

Audiences are accustomed to precise movements and, by taking away the spectacle and upping the drama and theatricality, the play will succeed primarily on strength of character.

“There are challenges to outdoor theatre, and our show is stripped down bare to display the vulnerability of the character’s state right at the beginning,” reveals Lepp.

This is his first play with DreamNorth, and a special one. Twelfth Night was the first outdoor Shakespeare play he attended as a child and it spurred his interest in directing and theatre.

After months of rehearsals, Twelfth Night is set to tour with performances in Toronto, Whitehorse, Atlin and ending in Mississauga. The show is looking sharp and Lepp is confident Whitehorse is in for a great time.

“The music is beautiful; the acting is fantastic. Whitehorse will enjoy it,” he says.

The performance runs August 14 and 15 and 18 to 22 at 7 p.m. with matinee showings on August 15, 22 and 23 at 1:30 p.m. All shows are at Shipyards Park and tickets are “pay what you can” with a suggested donation of $15.

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