Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Inside Look: Viola from Shakespeare On Tour's production of Twelfth Night; Or What you Will

Director of Production, Wesley A. Houston, sat down with Casey Wortmann, the actress playing Viola in the upcoming Shakespeare On Tour production of Twelfth Night, to talk about the intricacies of portraying a girl disguised as a boy, preparing for the role, and her experience so far with the tour.
WH: Good afternoon, Casey. 
CW: And you, Sir. 
WH: To start off, why don’t you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 
CW: I grew up in a suburb of Boston. When I was 18 I moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University where I majored in Theater and minored in Legal Studies. 
WH: What have you been doing since graduating? 
CW: I've been out of school for about a year and a half now. In that time I've done a combination of acting, teaching, babysitting and waiting tables. 
WH: How did you hear about and get involved with Nebraska Shakespeare?

CW: Nebraska Shakespeare holds auditions for Shakespeare on the Green in Chicago every year. I didn't audition last year because I'd already booked something for the summer, but they've been on my radar ever since.
My roommate this summer sent me the blog post for Twelfth Night on Tour auditions so I filmed some of Viola's monologues, posted them on youtube, and sent them to [Twelfth Night Director, Vincent Carlson-Brown] right away. 
WH: And how many Shakespeare productions have you been a part of before this one?
CW: This is my fourth professional Shakespeare production.I think its my eighth production overall? 
WH: What are a few of the others? 
WH: Still same question.
CW: This summer I worked at Door Shakespeare in Door County, Wisconsin. We performed Macbeth and Love's Labour's Lost in rep. Going back and forth between an intense and nasty witch and a sassy lady-in-waiting was enormously fun and challenging.
WH: I believe I heard that this is the first time you've traveled west of Illinois, is that correct?
CW: I said that but I realized I lied. I've been to California once but this is my first time in Nebraska!
Oops and I went to the twin cities once
...and St Louis I totally lied 
WH: I'll never trust you again.
WH: What do you think of Nebraska so far?
CW: It's great! Everyone is really friendly. I feel like I can't go anywhere without having a conversation with a stranger. But maybe that's just me.
WH: I think you may be right. That doesn't sound normal.

CW: Haha oops!  I just love talking.

WH: So, you play Viola in the upcoming tour of Twelfth Night. For those readers who may not be familiar with the play, can you tell us Viola's story in a nutshell?
CW: At the beginning of the play, Viola is separated from her twin brother Sebastian in a shipwreck. She is totally lost, so decides to dress in Sebastian's clothes in order to find work. We set our production on a ship in the 18th Century. It was bad luck to bring a woman on board a ship, so it makes sense that she dresses as a boy to find work. She works as a page for Duke Orsino, who she proceeds to fall head over heels for. UH OH! I won't give anything else away. 
WH: In taking on the role of Viola, you have to play someone other than yourself who is, in turn, playing someone other than herself. Can you talk about that a bit?

CW: I think I'm pretty similar to Viola. She is extremely determined despite all of the challenges the play throws at her. She actually has a lot of fun getting to take on the role of Cesario.
Viola's greatest challenge in becoming Cesario is learning the customs of the ship and understanding her role as a servant. Discovering that position both as an actor and as Viola is really fun. 
WH: You made a fairly big change earlier today to prepare for the role, didn't you? 
WH: What was that?

CW: I did indeed cut off about ten inches of hair.

WH: I understand cutting your hair was your idea (it looks great, by the way). What made you want to cut it rather than using a wig?

CW: When Vince called to offer me the role in August, the first thing out of my mouth was "Are you gonna want me to cut my hair?" 
I think part of me wanted to make some drastic change like cutting my hair, I just needed someone to tell me to do it.  Which Vince did.
WH: Well it looks really good. Make sure you get some pics while it's short to add to your headshots. 
CW: Thanks!
WH: What else have you done to prepare for the role? Did you have to study 'manning up'? Maybe read "Being a Dude For Dummies"?
CW: One thing that Vince made clear at the first rehearsal was that he didn't want me trying really hard to BE a dude.
Viola just has to trust that her disguise is enough. And once she falls for Orsino, I think there's a little part of her that hopes deep down he knows she's a girl.

But in dressing as a boy, she's able to foster a relationship with him that would be totally inappropriate if he knew she were a woman.
WH: Sounds like a Catch 22.
CW: Totally. But thankfully she's not stuck in it for too long.... 
WH: No we'll save that for the performances.

Last question: Do you have a favorite part, or something you think our viewers should look for when they see the show?
CW: It is so much fun making the discovery that Olivia has fallen in love with Viola's disguise. It's the ultimate 'are you kidding me with this!?!?' moment."
WH: We'll have to look for that.
Thanks for sitting down with me today.
CW: No, thank you.

Casey chose to send her hair to Locks of Love.

Casey was a little anxious before the haircut, having never had short
hair before, but was all smiles once it started and throughout.

Final touches and the "Before and After (with sun in the eyes)" shots.

For more information about the On Tour production of Twelfth Night, visit

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