Jazz, Shakespeare Jibe in Theatre’s “Twelfth Night”

It’s reminiscent of that iconic moment in pop culture when chocolate and peanut butter collided. Jazz and “Twelfth Night” just jelled.

Theatre professor Jim Wren was listening to John Coltrane’s cool jazz this summer as he prepared to direct Shakespeare’s comedy.

“I was listening to Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ in addition to some crazy ‘punk jazz’ from the Lounge Lizards that started to speak to me as I was reading the text,” he says. “I love the simultaneous simplicity and complexity within the music. And the listening. Not my listening, but the way the musicians listen to one another. That’s what I hope to explore with ‘Twelfth Night’.”

So Wren adopted a 1960s jazz club aesthetic as he shaped the play for UNCG Theatre, a feel that extends from the background music to the costumes. “Twelfth Night” runs Oct. 2-9 in Taylor Theatre.

“Twelfth Night” provides “wonderful challenges” for actors, designers and technicians, Wren says. It also has a special energy well-suited to kick off Theatre’s mainstage season.

“This is a big, busy show, lots of characters, lots of settings, musicians, layers of language, all of the challenges you can imagine from a Shakespearean comedy,” he says. “There is a great deal expected from everyone involved in the production. It’s a daunting and exhilarating way to start the semester.”

What can “Twelfth Night” with its confused love triangles and gender-bending disguises tell us about our lives in today’s world?

“I recently read an essay delivered by the playwright Richard Nelson where he talked about theatre exploring ‘the complexity and ambiguity of the human heart,’ ” Wren says. “I think that’s what ‘Twelfth Night’ shows us. Life in all of its complexity. And all of its ambiguity.”

Get tickets for “Twelfth Night” at the Theatre Box Office, Room 115 of the Brown Building (402 Tate Street), or by phone at  (336) 334-4392. Or buy tickets online at http://triadstage.org/tickets.

Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations
Reposted from UNCG News and Features