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Residency program brings London actors to UT

Actors From the London stage will present William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Hogg Auditorium on The University of Texas at Austin campus Thursday (Oct. 14) at 3 p.m. and Friday and Saturday (Oct 15 and 16) at 8 p.m.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Actors From the London stage will present William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Hogg Auditorium on The University of Texas at Austin campus Thursday (Oct. 14) at 3 p.m. and Friday and Saturday (Oct 15 and 16) at 8 p.m.

The public performances are co-sponsored by the University and by a special program run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called ACTER (A Center for Theatre, Education & Research). ACTER is a residency program that brings five classically trained actors with experience in the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and the BBC Shakespeare Series to American campuses for week-long stays.

During their visits, the actors perform a five-actor full-length version of one of Shakespeare’s plays, teach classes, lead workshops and perform one-person shows they have devised on subjects that interest them. In the past, actors Patrick Godfrey, Ben Kingsley, Patrick Stewart, Ian Richardson, David Rintoul, Lisa Harrow, Gemma Jones and others have toured the United States working with hundreds of students in drama, history, literature and composition classes, seminars, workshops and informal gatherings.

The performances of Twelfth Night emphasize the versatility of the classically trained actors. Paul Bhattacharjee, Claire Marchionne, Matthew Radford, Christopher Saul and Lucy Tregear each play several starring and supporting roles in this beloved Shakespeare comedy. Using subtle gestures, body movements, and voice modulation rather than elaborate costumes or sets, the cast conveys all the action and shifts of character with ease and believability.

Alan Friedman, a professor of English at UT and the coordinator for the UT-ACTER residency, says that he wanted to bring ACTER back to UT because “their performances emphasize language, character interaction and energy; the results are startlingly clear and powerful, even magical, for audiences of all ages in a way that large-scale productions in the big theaters of Stratford and London cannot be.”

One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Twelfth Night displays the complications that arise when two twins, Viola and Sebastian, are separated by a shipwreck and reappear in Illyria with Viola now disguised as a boy, Cesario. Three men are in love with the countess Olivia, but she falls in love with Cesario who in turn has fallen in love with her employer, Orsino. In addition to the tangled love stories, this comedy also provides several noteworthy songs, the antics of Feste the jester, Sir Toby Belch (a drunken reveler), and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a foolish wooer of Olivia), and the tormenting of the puritanical steward Malvolio.

Twelfth Night is both a highly enjoyable romp about mistaken identity and a timely exploration of problems linked to gender and the “madness,” occasioned by love.

During the week of the public performances, the actors will teach 33 classes and workshops to UT undergraduates and alumnae and to Austin-area high school students. In the classes, the actors explore the relationship of page and stage, language and meaning: “rehearsing” students in scenes from Shakespeare and other playwrights, helping them to examine the many ways scenes can be understood and performed, leading them in analyzing and speaking verse and teaching them about metrical stresses, rhythm, cues, blocking and stage breathing.

In addition to the Twelfth Night performances, actress Claire Marchionne will perform a one-woman show she has devised based on Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice. This free, public performance is presented as part of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center’s “Poetry on the Plaza” series and takes place on Wednesday (Oct. 13) from noon to 1 p.m. on the plaza in front of the HRHRC.

Friedman says he hopes “the visit will strengthen UT’s links with the English theater since many of the same people in the ACTER program are connected with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, where the Shakespeare at Winedale Program now performs every August, or participate in

Shakespeare in Performance, a course in the English Department’s Oxford Summer Program that has worked with British actors and directors since 1984.”

Tickets prices for Twelfth Night are $8 for regular admission and $4 for all students and UT i.d. holders. They are available at all UTMM ticket outlets.

Tickets can be charged over the phone by calling 477-6060 or may be purchased at the Hogg Auditorium box office one hour prior to each performance. For more information about the performances, call 471-1444.