Tom Robenolt portrays Sir Toby Belch and Natalia Spengler plays Viola in the Alaska Theater Festival’s production of “Twelfth Night,” which debuts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Treadwell Mine Office Building. (Courtesy of Flordelino Lagundino).

Tom Robenolt portrays Sir Toby Belch and Natalia Spengler plays Viola in the Alaska Theater Festival’s production of “Twelfth Night,” which debuts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Treadwell Mine Office Building. (Courtesy of Flordelino Lagundino).

Taking on new tones for “Twelfth Night”

Modern production of Shakespeare play free at various Juneau venues starting Wednesday

It’s a play for “all ages” involving cross-dressing and themes of gender identity, but director Flordelino Lagundino says he’s pretty sure even folks in Florida leading efforts to ban such material would find his modernized production of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” to be fitting family fare.

“We talked a little bit about it,” Lagundino said Monday, referring to the so-called culture wars debate involving gender identity, especially involving younger people. “But I think that it’s already embedded in the play. The thing is, I feel like ‘Twelfth Night’ will go over very well in Florida right now. And I don’t think anybody would say anything about it. I think in some ways Shakespeare is kind of impervious to those kinds of questions…It’s like because it’s Shakespeare, it’s OK.”

The play is the second of three productions scheduled during this year’s Alaska Theater Festival. Performances are scheduled through July at several venues throughout Juneau, with five opening shows at the Treadwell Mine Office Building followed by stagings at locations such as the Mendenhall Valley Public Library and Sealaska’s Heritage Plaza downtown.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted and audience members are advised to bring their own seating.

“Twelfth Night” is, at heart, a romantic comedy involving a love triangle, but with a bunch of additional angles that result in a rather more multi-sided geometric shape. The base plot involves a woman named Viola who is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria along with her twin brother, Sebastian, who she believes has perished, and after her rescue she disguises herself as a man and enters the service of a Duke. She falls in love with the Duke, who is in love with another woman who falls in love with the disguised Viola.

While the plot — not to mention the additional subplots and twists — might be a bit tricky for all minds to keep up with, Lagundino said his production should remain accessible to younger people in the audience.

“I think the actors are very clear in their language,” he said. “There’s a lot of physical comedy as well.”

Lagundino’s production — scheduled to last about 90 minutes at the various venues through July 30 — trims the overall storyline, and incorporates modern dress and music. Lagundino said examples of songs people can hear, during or before the play, are “Tainted Love” by Soft Sell, along with tunes made famous by Debbie Gibson and Kate Bush.

“We’re adding a few songs at the beginning of the play,” Lagundino said. “If people arrive 10 minutes before the play several cast members are going to be singing a few songs.”

This is also the first Shakespeare production in the Alaska Theater Festival’s four-year history where all of the music will be performed live, instead of featuring at least some portions that are pre-recorded, he said.

While many of the venues are in the open air, all but the July 29 show at Jensen-Olsen Arboretum will be under cover to protect performers and audience members from rain and other elements — and the arboretum show will be moved to shelter at Riverside Rotary Park if necessary, Lagundino said. He said warm clothing is advisable for performances during less-than-ideal weather, with the forecast during the coming week calling for several days of rain, and nighttime temperatures dropping into the low 50s and high 40s.

Know & Go

What: “Twelfth Night”

Where/when: Various venues in Juneau as follows:

— July 19-22: 7 p.m., Treadwell Mine Office Building

— July 23: 3 p.m., Treadwell Mine Office Building

— July 26: 7 p.m., Mendenhall Valley Public Library, 3025 Diamond Park Loop

— July 27: 7 p.m., Riverside Rotary Park, 3300 Riverside Drive

— July 28: 7 p.m., Heritage Plaza at Sealaska Heritage Institute, 105 S. Seward St.

— July 29: 7 p.m., Jensen-Olsen Arboretum, 23035 Glacier Hwy. (Note: reservations for this show must be made in advance due to limited capacity. Details at www.theateralaska.org/twelfthnight)

— July 30: 3 p.m., Noyes Pavilion at the University of Alaska Southeast, 11220 Glacier Hwy.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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