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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shakespeare Around Town; Much Ado, a Game Show, and the Four Humors.

Didn't get your Shakespeare fix On The Green this summer? No worries. There are a number of upcoming shows and events going on this fall.

Starting today, Creighton is hosting "And There's the Humor of It: Shakespeare and the Four Humors".  Shakespeare understood human personality in the terms available to his age—that of the now-discarded theory of the four bodily humors thought to define peoples’ physical and mental health, and determine their personalities, This traveling exhibit explores the language of the four humors that bred the core passions of anger, grief, hope, and fear—the emotions conveyed so powerfully in Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.

The exhibit will be on display at the Health Sciences Library from September 16th through October 4th and at Reinert-Alumni Library from October 4th through October 26th

In conjunction with the exhibit, on Thursday, September 26th at 3:30 pm at the Skutt Student Center Ballroom, there will be a panel discussion on Shakespeare and the Four Humors, followed by a catered reception, musical entertainment, a fortune teller, and a “photo op” with none other than the Bard himself. 

The panel will include insights from Kathleen Rettig, from the English department. Dr. Richard O’Brien of the Creighton School of Medicine, and Alan Klem and Michael McCandless of the theatre department.

For more information on the exhibit, contact Madonna Knudson at 402-280-5109 or For more information and supplemental materials go to the Exhibit's Website.

NE Shakespeare On Tour Production of Twelfth Night will be traveling to various schools across the state in September and October and will also be holding a number of public performances:
  • The Bellevue Berry Farm - September 29, 4 PM
  • The Salvation Army Kroc Center - October 1, 6 PM
  • Fontenelle Forest - October 3, 6 PM
  • Norfolk Arts Center - October 5, 1 PM
  • Stinson Park - October 9, 6 PM
  • The Union Center for Contemporary Arts - October 12, 11:30 AM
  • Wahoo Community - October 14, 7 PM
  • Ainsworth Community - October 17, 7:30 PM
  • Bassett Community - October 19, 7 PM
  • Valentine Community - October 20, 7 PM
  • Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs - October 22, 6 PM
  • UNO's Thompson Alumni Center - October 27, 3 PM
For more information about the tour or performances, check out our Website or follow us on Facebook.

In October, Creighton University is also opening a production of Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare's rollicking romp through the perils, pitfalls, and triumphs of young love.  Produced by the Creighton Department of Theatre and set in the 1950's, the show promises to be "an electrified, way out, super cool, rock n' roll classical comedy that everyone will enjoy!"

Performance will run from Thursday October, 3 through Saturday October 12 at the Lied Education Center for the Performing Arts Mainstage.  Tickets are available now through the Creighton Box Office.

Across the River, Iowa Western Community College is producing “Shakespeare: The Game Show, An Interactive Shakes-perience” written by IWCC Theatre Department Chair and creator of Nebraska Shakespeare's Two Minute Shakespeare, Moira Mangiameli.

"Shakespeare: The Game Show" takes viewers from Romeo and Juliet to Richard III and “The Dating Game” to “Fear Factor.” Audiences will gain new understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare’s language and characters while they serve as judges, actors, and contestants in this high energy, interactive play-fest. The acting company along with audience members will travel from game to game exploring characters, themes, and text from many of the Bard’s finest works.

Performance dates are November 7th through 10th and 14th through 16th. For information, contact Moira Mangiameli at 712-325-3409.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Inside Look: Nebraska Shakespeare On Tour Twelfth Night

Tales from inside the Pirate Ship

Shakespeare Editions from Vincent's massive collection
         In the first week of April 2012, long before the opening of Nebraska Shakespeare’s Shakespeare On The Green Season of Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus, Artistic Director Vincent Carlson-Brown was already working on the company’s fall production, Twelfth Night On Tour. The fall tour needs a reduced cast of 8 actors playing multiple roles in addition to a trimmed, 75-min cutting from the original Shakespeare text so the production will easily fit into school schedules. 
        Using an array of Twelfth Night editions, Vincent adapted the script and formulated a concept (18th Century British Isles).  The next step was casting.  In late June, with Shakespeare on the Green in full swing, Vincent turned his attention to Twelfth Night On Tour and on July 2nd held auditions at Creighton University’s Lied Center.
           Finding the right cast for Nebraska Shakespeare’s touring productions is a challenge. Not only was Vincent looking for the best actors for the parts, he also had to keep in mind the needs of a touring education company.  The cast must perform several times a day; each time loading a set in and out, in addition to teaching workshops for high school and middle school students. Positive personalities, good work ethics and education experience must be taken into consideration as well as talent.

         After the audition was complete and following two weeks of casting contemplation, the Twelfth Night company was set. Contracts, scripts and a Letter from the Director were sent to the cast.  Even with rehearsals almost a full month away, the On Tour company started the work. 

-Actors studied their text and memorized their lines. (Vincent requires all actors to be off-book for the first rehearsal)

-Songs were adapted and arranged using Shakespeare’s text. The ukulele is the instrument of choice in our production, so chords and tunes were made.

-Tour Booking Continued- Focusing on bringing this awesome production to as many schools and communities as possible in our 4 weeks of performances (September 29th- October 25th).

-Director, Vincent, and Stage Manager, Wesley, began meeting with the production team to discuss concept and design for the show.




       Nebraska Shakespeare was thrilled to have local professionals, Lindsay Pape and Bill Van Deest on board as designers for Twelfth Night On Tour 2013. Every year, designing the set for the tour is challenging, and this year was no exception. Vincent wanted a shipwreck on stage. Bill Vandeest designed a gorgeous set that is not only visually striking and functional for the production, but it also breaks into pieces and fits perfectly into a moving truck to be transported all over Nebraska. 


        The costumes: Actors play multiple characters with very quick changes in-between. The costumes must be built strong enough that they can withstand the multiple performances and travels of the tour. Lindsay designed amazing, colorful and stylish costumes to support the 18th Century British Isles concept (Pirates!).


     After the months of preparation, the First Rehearsal occurred this past Sunday, September 8th. The company finally assembled for the design presentation and first read of the script.

This is where the fun begins. 

         7 hours a day of rehearsals and workshop training at the Salvation Army Kroc Center is both exhilarating and exhausting. With the set taped out on the floor and crates and barrels littering the space, swashbuckling ensues. Vincent quickly pushes the pace of rehearsals, blocking the entire show within the first four days. Once the shape of the story is set he will polish and perfect every moment in the production. The first week completed today with a full run of the 75 minute show. We only met 5 days ago...

         Stay tuned for more tour insight from our company over the next few weeks. Visit Our Website for the full touring schedule.

“I shall have share in this most happy wrack.”- Orsino, Twelfth Night Act 5 Scene 1