This month, the Bay Area community is in for a treat when three TDPS lecturers take the stage to star in Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity, desire and intrigue. Margo Hall, Domenique Lozano and Lisa Anne Porter have the rare opportunity to collaborate in a predominately-female version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at California Shakespeare Theater (May 27-June 21). “It’s probably my favorite comedy of Shakespeare,” says Lozano, “because I think the journeys that the characters take are extraordinary. It starts massively tragically but ends with weddings. And it has the right combination of comedy and poignancy.”
Considering the comedy’s popularity, it is not a surprise that Hall, Lozano and Porter all have history with Twelfth Night. Hall, who plays foppish Sir Andrew Aguecheek, has seen the show performed many times, but this is her first time acting in it, whereas Lozano has performed in three separate productions of the piece, as well as directed it. “I’ve played all the women,” she laughs. In the Cal Shakes production Lozano takes on the role of conspiring Maria. “Maria is the first Shakespeare character I ever played, in grad school,” recalls Lozano, “It’s nice to come back to her.” Meanwhile, Porter, who is playing both of the twins Viola and Sebastian (and who has also directed the play), is returning to a role in a different way. “I was up for the role of Viola before, and right after I auditioned I found out I was pregnant. I turned it down and thought, ‘Well, that was it, that was your chance to play Viola.’ But it came back!”
Despite their familiarity with the play, all three women are still making discoveries in the rehearsal room. “The director, Christopher Liam Moore, is a jewel,” raves Hall, a sentiment enthusiastically echoed by the others. “Chris is an actor himself,” Lozano elaborates, “and it’s just lovely to be directed by a director who is an actor. There’s a language we share.”
The production features six female actors, with only Olivia’s fool Feste being played by a male. While audiences will certainly enjoy the fresh perspective that these women bring to traditionally male roles, the casting choice is also a treat for the actors. “How often do you get to do one of your favorite plays with a room full of women?” exclaims Hall. Seconds Lozano, “It’s extraordinary—we never get to be in plays together since we’re always auditioning for the same part. I’ve known Margo for 25 years but I’ve never been onstage with her!” For Porter, working with such talented women is a pleasure; “it’s like a basketball team: you know when you throw the ball that people will catch it, and you know what they are going to throw back will be really good.”
So how does working as a professional inform these TDPS lecturers’ work in the classroom? Porter finds that understanding what it is like to put yourself at risk constantly informs her empathy as a teacher. “I think it also lends you humility,” she says. “I know how hard it is; I know what it’s like to be scared, to not quite understand text, to not get the part. I’m not asking my students to do something that I have not had to do, and what I haven’t struggled with.” Lozano, too, finds it critical to cultivate a professional career outside of the classroom. “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be an actor and you can forget that if you’re just teaching,” she says. “My acting work informs every moment of my teaching so it’s very important that I stay connected as a practitioner.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to see TDPS lecturers Margo Hall, Domenique Lozano and Lisa Anne Porter in Twelfth Night at Cal Shakes from May 27 to June 21. Learn more about the production and purchase tickets at calshakes.org.
Fun TDPS Fact: One of the earliest Bay Area all-female versions of Twelfth Night was staged in TDPS in 2004, directed by Crystal Finn (T&PS minor, class of 2004). Finn was a recipient of a UC Berkeley Humanities Fellowship that enabled her to travel to London and conduct research on cross-gender portrayals in the performance of Shakespeare. She received her MFA in Acting from Brown/Trinity in 2007 and is now a playwright in New York.