Northwest News

Actors' Theatre updates a classic comedy

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A Shakespeare classic with an '80s twist has arrived in Schiller Park.

Actors' Theatre of Columbus will perform the playwright's popular comedy Twelfth Night Thursdays through Sundays through July 28 in the German Village park's amphitheater.

All shows, which are free and open to the public, start at 8 p.m.

Mandy Fox, who has made her directorial debut with the theater company, said references to Madonna, Michael Jackson, big hair, Ghostbusters and the bright yellow Sony Walkman will be sewn throughout the show.

A huge wooden cassette tape serves as a visual backdrop behind the stage.

"To quote the '80s, it's totally gnarly," said Fox, an associate professor at Ohio State University.

Fox, 42, said she got the idea to modernize the play when her graduate students related stories about their trips to a local bar that had an '80s-theme night.

"There was almost a feeling of, 'You wouldn't understand,' " Fox said.

The plot centers on a love triangle involving Viola, Duke Orsino and Olivia. Duke Orsino uses Viola, who changes her identity to Cesario, a man, to help him court his love interest, Olivia. But Olivia falls in love with Cesario, believing him to be a man. All the while, Viola is pining for the duke.

Kayla Jackmon, who plays Viola, said the role is challenging.

"The hardest part is to be head over heels for a guy I would be willing to sacrifice my life for and trying to figure out how much I do need to act as a man in this role," said Jackmon, 25.

Ashley Frisch, who plays Olivia, said she enjoyed researching her role.

"I've actually grown to appreciate the '80s more now," said Frisch, 27.

"We got to listen to '80s music, watch '80s movies and look at pictures of '80s clothing and hair and really dig into the things that represented the decade."

John S. Kuhn, artistic director for Actors' Theatre, said it isn't unusual for the troupe to make modern adaptations of stories.

For example, the theater company has recreated Othello in the Civil War era and used 1860s' Appalachia as the backdrop for Comedy of Errors.

"We have always looked to find ways to make plays, whether Shake-speare or someone else, as interesting or engaging for modern audiences," Kuhn said.

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