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Piedmont Players’ resident director Reid Leonard has re-imagined the time period in which Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” takes place.
Opting to move away from the traditional Elizabethan era, the local production of the comedy will take place in 1840.
“It’s winter and it’s around Christmas and one of the things I kept thinking about when I was working on it was whether anybody, especially kids, would recognize anything about an Elizabethan Christmas,” he said. “Our Christmas is Charles Dickens with evergreens and thing like that.
“The setting, the decorations, it’s a little more recognizable as the Christmas season so that was the main reason for the change.”
Leonard said the play, which opens Friday at the Norvell Theater, is being performed on a raked stage, which means it slopes downward from back to front.
“It makes sound bounce out,” he said.
The stage aids in keeping the action constantly flowing.
“One of the things I try to do when we’re doing Shakespeare is never have it really stop, in other words there’s not a blackout and a set change.
“In the Globe Theatre there were no sets, there was just the stage and people would enter and exit.”
Shakespeare uses the device of mistaken identity in this fast-paced play.
Summer Hall and Joe Cornacchione play Viola and Sebastian, twins who are shipwrecked. Each believe the other is dead, so Viola dresses up as a young man to land a job with Duke Orsino, played by Austin Young.
Leonard said people often wonder how “Twelfth Night” is a comedy when it begins with a variety of tragic events.
“Out of the angst comes very, very funny things,” he said. “It’s considered one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.”
Young, 16, said he’s excited to be part of his third Shakespeare play.
“The wordplay, the wit, the imagery and how amazing he could be while being so blunt is really what draws me to it,” he said.
Young said one of the biggest things people can learn from Shakespeare is iambic pentameter.
“Once you know that not only does Shakespeare flow a lot better, it actually makes sense because it tells you where to put the inflection in a sentence that would otherwise just be a random jumble of words.”

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