The Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program, open to students ages 12 to 17, will present Williams Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night" this
The Egyptian Theatre's YouTheatre program, open to students ages 12 to 17, will present Williams Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" this weekend. The cast and crew have been working on the production for nearly four weeks in intensive workshops and rehearsals. (Courtesy of the Egyptian Theatre)
While William Shakespeare is considered by many as the ultimate playwright, some people, including actors, are intimidated by him.

Main concerns include memorizing difficult stanzas, hard-to-pronounce words and, of course, the timing. Others are afraid they may not understand the Bard's humor.

Jamie Wilcox, director of the Egyptian Theatre's YouTheatre program has found a way to help young actors get acclimated to Shakespeare's works.

"Last summer for our YouTheatre production at the Egyptian Theatre was the first time we tried to undertake that and we used a modernized version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,'" Wilcox told The Park Record. "We set it in the 1980s and put an '80s soundtrack to go along with it.

"We felt that was a great way to get the kids excited about the script and helped them relate to the story," she said. "It was fantastic."

Wilcox and guest director Natasha Bergg are taking a similar tactic for the YouTheatre production this weekend.

They have set the comedy "Twelfth Night" in 1930s Hollywood and are using a mix of jazz standards and electro-swing music as the soundtrack.

"It's super important to introduce Shakespeare to kids, and I think finding the right way of getting them excited about him is where the challenge comes in," Wilcox said. "But once the kids see how it does relate to their modern lives, it's a good way to do it."

Also, Shakespeare's stories are full of drama and comedy, she said.


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`"It's kind of like reality TV," Wilcox said, laughing. "There is a lot going on and some of it is kind of crazy."

The look for "Twelfth Night" is shiny and pretty, according to Wilcox.

"We're basing the characters after the starlets and directors of the 1930s, who had a lot of money and were bored, during that time when the rest of the country was going through the Depression," she said. "Everything seems perfect to them, but it's not colorful. So when the shipwreck comes and leaves Sebastian and Viola stranded in this new place, it also brings in some color into this world."

The production is also using a mashup of two scripts, Wilcox said.

"One is the modernized, shortened, script from the Inessential Shakespeare series, and the other is the original script," she explained. " doing this, the actors are mastering the language."

The scripts were 'arranged' by Natasha Bergg, who came to Park City from London to work with the YouTheatre and co-direct the play.

Bergg works with a company that introduces Shakespeare to middle schools in England.

"I think Shakespeare was an amazing writer, but I also think there is a stigma surrounding him," she said. "In the U.K. we do a lot of Shakespeare in school, and in terms of language, Shakespeare was an interesting person. He made up new words and spelled everything the way he wanted to spell it and was a real rule breaker."

That makes him intimidating, Bergg said.

"However, the themes of his plays are very universal and can tell us a lot about human nature," she said. "So the trick was to get down to the context of the plays and the clever way they are written and making that accessible to young people. We are trying to help them become familiar with these writings and help them overcome their fear."

Still, there were times when the humor got lost in the words, so Bergg made some adjustments.

"Since this is a mash up of the scripts, we had taken some of the jokes out," she said with a giggle. "But we left many of the wonderful wordplays in, which help the actors get a feel for the words.

"We wanted the kids to find the fun in the script, as well as play with the rhythm of the text," Bergg said. "So far, it's been wonderful to see what they have learned."

The cast of "Twelfth Night" ranges in age from 12 to 17 years old.

"I'm so impressed with this group," Bergg said. "They work so hard, but have a lot of fun.

Furthermore, they are "super committed," she said.

"There was a little concern about learning the lines, because the words are difficult, but they are coming right along," Bergg said. "We wanted to push each person as much as we could and we are seeing the journey they are on. They all get on quite well and they are developing wonderfully."

The play was cast almost three weeks ago.

"We've been working on a very intense schedule every day," Bergg said. "My co-director Will Richardson is doing the movement and dance and I'm working on the characteristics and bringing the text alive. And things are coming together quite nicely."

YouTheatre will present William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Aug. 8, and Saturday, Aug. 9. Evening curtain for both nights is 7 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. This production of the Shakespeare comedy is set in 1930s Hollywood. And the cast is comprised of students ages 12 to 17. Tickets are $8 and $14. They can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com .