Shakespeare Plot Takes Shape
By Jeff Maisey
Ricardo Melendez, described as a 21st Century Renaissance Man by Veer Magazine theater critic Montague Gammon III, has been plotting for more than a year to stage Shakespeare outdoors in a public green space in downtown Norfolk. On June 28 through 30, his early summer’s night dream will come true with Workshop Theatre Group’s presentation of Twelfth Night.”
“I have been wanting to do an outdoor Shakespeare for years,” said Melendez. “Last year we almost did it but The Plot was not ready. We hope to create a forward movement to where we do it once a year. The city of Norfolk will have another free outdoor event.”
Melendez is a professional dancer, actor, playwright, mentor and instructor. He teaches at the Governor’s School for the Arts and at TRDance Studio.
Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was completed in 1601. It refers to the twelfth night after Christmas, on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany. During Elizabethan times, the holiday season was less about religion and more a drunken, revelry-filled period.
Wikipedia provides the following synopsis of the play:
Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and she comes ashore with the help of a captain. She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. Disguising herself as a young man under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died, and refuses to see any suitor until seven years have passed, the Duke included. Orsino then uses Cesario (Viola) as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia however, believing Viola to be a man, falls in love with Cesario (Viola), while Viola has fallen in love with the Duke.
In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia’s pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that his lady Olivia has fallen for him. It involves Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch; another would-be suitor, a silly squire named Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria and Fabian and her fool, Feste. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew engage themselves in drinking and revelry, thus disturbing the peace of their lady’s house until late into the night, prompting Malvolio to chastise them. Sir Toby famously retorts, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” (Act II, Scene III) Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria are provoked to plan revenge on Malvolio. They convince Malvolio that Olivia is secretly in love with him by planting a love letter, written by Maria in Olivia’s hand, asking Malvolio to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered, to be rude to the rest of the servants, and to smile constantly in the presence of Olivia. Malvolio finds the letter and reacts in surprised delight. He starts acting out the contents of the letter to show Olivia his positive response. Olivia is shocked by the changes in Malvolio, who has seemingly lost his mind. She leaves him to the contrivances of his tormentors. Pretending that Malvolio is insane, they lock him up in a dark chamber. Feste visits him to mock his insanity, disguised as a priest, and as himself. At the end of the play Malvolio learns of their conspiracy and storms off promising revenge, but the Duke (Orsino) sends Fabian to pacify him.
Meanwhile, Sebastian (who had been rescued by a sea captain, Antonio) arrives on the scene, which adds confusion of mistaken identity. Mistaking Sebastian for Viola, Olivia asks him to marry her, and they are secretly married in a church. Finally, when Viola and Sebastian appear in the presence of both Olivia and the Duke, there is more wonder and confusion at their similarity. At this point Viola reveals she is a female and that Sebastian is her twin brother. The play ends in a declaration of marriage between the Orsino (Duke) and Viola, and it is learned that Sir Toby has married Maria.
Ricardo Melendez has twice acted “Twelfth Night” and directed it once. As for actors, he will call upon an eager group of students and former students, alumni of the Governor’s School.
“I’ve been working on shortening the script,” Melendez said. “This will be a 90-minute production. The actors are local. I have a bunch of young actors who have gone away to New York, Indiana, everywhere, and they usually come home for the summer for a couple of weeks. They always say, ‘Ricardo, we want to work with you one more time.’ So now we’ll do it. There are 12 actors. A lot have worked with Workshop Theatre for some time like CJ Vogt and Steve Earle.”
The performance will also feature period costumes accumulated through the years by Workshop and Governor’s School.
Melendez feels certain the idea of a free Shakespeare event can be established and draw tourists and local residents alike, similarly to those held in Seattle, San Francisco and other cities across America.
“We want to harbor the idea that this could be an annual Shakespeare festival where people will come and visit. As we create all this green spaces in downtown let’s use it for the people. It also gives opportunity to local actors and those who have left the area that there is a possibility to come back home and have a place to work, which does not exist right now.”
Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”
Presented by Workshop Theatre Group
The Plot (Main/Granby Street)
Sir Toby Belch: Steve Earle, Chair of the Theatre Department at GSA
Andrew Aguecheek: Andrew Fortman, local actor, played ‘The Price’ in WTG Romeo and Juliet
Antonio: CJ Vogt, local actor, has performed in many WTG shows: Hamlet, Cloaked, Romeo and Juliet.
Maria: Crista Jones, local actor, played Nurse in WGT Romeo and Juliet
Feste: Brian Wrestler, GSA teacher
Viola: Madison Reiske, GSA alumni, currently at PACE University
Olivia: Sarah Robotham, GSA alumni/Graduate Bennington College, Vermont
Count Orsin:- Carter Horton, GSA graduate 2013/attending University of The arts, Philadelphia
Sebastian: Tyler MacAnney, GSA senior
Valentine: Ewing White, GSA graduate/ attending VCU
Malvolio: Ricardo Melendez, WTG producing director