Shakespeare on the Quad: The Final Performance of Twelfth Night
“If music be the food of love, play on.” An impromptu performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was performed on the Quad in front of Eaton Hall on April 23, 2022. Willamette Theatre canceled their last three showings of the play due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases, with some members of the cast and crew contracting it themselves. Ticket buyers were notified via email and received an accompanying phone call about the cancellations and their impending refund as well.
With this being the last show of the 2021-2022 season, many seniors felt they were going to be cheated out of their final performances with the Willamette Theatre due to these cancellations. The remaining cast and crew knew something had to be done, and with only two and a half hours of planning time, they adapted the show into an outdoor version and notified the public via their personal social media accounts that the show would go on. Approximately 85 people attended the show, laid out on blankets and towels in the rare Salem sun.
Stage managers and directors stood in for actors who could not perform, with scripts in hand. Ives (‘23) was the show’s assistant stage manager and assistant intimacy director, but stood in to play Sir Andrew Aguecheek. All actors wore masks and had received negative COVID-19 test results earlier that day. The set consisted of three white adirondack chairs and an acting block with a speaker placed on top that played various sounds to help set the scene. The cast wore modern versions of their costumes with whatever they could find in their own dorms, and obtained makeshift props from around campus, such as big sticks, wooden swords and a bucket hat in place of a veil.
Cast and crew said the impromptu production was entirely student-led and -executed. The cast met with faculty earlier in the day to discuss what would happen to the Saturday shows, which resulted in a final decision to cancel both showings. Mikey Alongi (‘25), who played Antonio in the show, said, “As a cast we decided on our own that we would put on something outside, masked, as socially distant as we could, and we just got together and made it happen.” They had approximately two and a half hours to prepare the show in its new setting, and Alongi noted that although some of the blocking ended up getting changed to accommodate the new outdoor setting and the ending dance was different, everything else went smoothly.
When asked if they would like the theater to put on another outdoor production of any show, Alongi said, “There used to be an outdoor Shakespeare theater many years ago, but I think the [STAGE] 24-hour theater show outdoors would be a f*cking riot.” Grace Kline (‘25), an audience member, said, “I saw the show in its original rendition earlier in the run, but I honestly really loved this version. Because everyone was closer and there wasn’t much costuming, the actors felt closer to the audience and there was way more audience participation. You could get into it more, which made it extra fun.” When asked if she would like to see the theater put on more productions like this, she said, “absolutely.”
Another audience member, Rachel Schmitt (‘22) said, “The show was delightful. I was intending to see the stage version for closing night, so I’m a little sad I didn’t get to [see the set and costuming], but it was so exciting to get to be here and see just how much all these students love theater.” Schmitt also noted that the high energy the audience and the cast had together was incredible.