Summer theater in Honolulu means the Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival, at least it has for the past fifteen years. This year the festival is presenting daring twists on the original material and a related play from the 1600’s. Performances are free in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa prepares us as the series launches.
Twelfth Night, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays begins:
“If music be the food of love, play on. And you think, what the heck does that mean?”
Peter Webb specializes in English literature, he teaches Shakespeare at ‘Iolani School and says, just look at it.
“Does music feed love? Well, think about it, if you’re trying to stage a romantic evening, you’re going to put some music on, right? So okay, if music be the food of love, play on. Okay, he wants more of that, so now, okay, the guy’s in love. But we also know something about him as a person, this is a very flowery speaker. Most of us would not talk that way.”
And, Webb says, they didn’t talk that way in Shakespeare’s time either, so it’s perfectly natural to wonder, what’s up with this guy?
“The next thing he says is, Give me excess of it. What? He wants to have more music so he’ll get sick of music so that he won’t be in love anymore.”
I know some think, why go through this? But consider! The resonance of this language and mindset could be super rich for our data-stuffed minds.
“As we find out later in the scene, he is the Duke of this country, and so that raises another problem. Can someone who thinks like this be an effective leader? As we find out over the course of the play, the answer is no, he’s a lousy leader because he’s spending all his time lying around in flower beds making up love poetry. So one of the things that’s fun about this play is that you get to see how the way in which a person speaks reflects his or her interior.”
Jason Kanda is directing Twelfth Night this summer for the Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival. He found a theme of the play has particular relevance this year.
“Shakespeare when he set out to write this, I think he had some ideas in his head about wanting to make some statements about gender identity. Every morning after rehearsal in the evening, I would come back and there would be stories in the paper all about gender identity. So I really felt like 2016 is a year that we want to do a play that asks those questions, what is it other than our anatomy that defines us as men and women?”
In this production, gender is treated loosely. Elizabethan theater did not allow female actors, so gender switching/blending is radical in the old sense, back to the root.
“Because we’re in 2016, everybody’s gonna have a smart phone, a selfie stick, there’s going to be some anime. It should be a wild, enjoyable time.”
Peter Webb says Shakespeare is not about plot, they were all lifted anyway, except for The Tempest.
“When a character says something in a particular way, we can feel how that language creates in us a real sense of dimensionality.” That’s worth something in what has become a CGI-centric, nearly texture-free world of images.
Webb admits people have been traumatized about the Bard, but the muscular re-workings that make up Hawai‘i’s Shakespeare Festival may strike a chord with new audiences. This summer’s fifteenth Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival opens July 8th and runs through August 23rd at Marks Garage. In celebration of the 400th commemoration of Shakespeare’s passing, admission is FREE this year, though seats can be reserved for a nominal charge.
Friday, July 8, 7:30pm
Saturday, July 9, 7:30pm
Sunday, July 10, 3:30pm
Wednesday, July 13, 7:30pm
Thursday, July 14, 7:30pm
Friday, July 15, 7:30pm
Saturday, July 16, 7:30pm
Sunday, July 17, 3:30pm
The Witch of Edmonton
Friday, July 22, 7:30pm
Saturday, July 23, 7:30pm
Sunday, July 24, 3:30pm
Wednesday, July 27, 7:30pm
Thursday, July 28, 7:30pm
Friday, July 29, 7:30pm
Saturday, July 30, 7:30pm
Sunday, July 31, 3:30pm
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Friday, August 12, 7:30pm
Saturday, August 13, 7:30pm
Sunday, August 14, 3:30pm
Wednesday, August 17, 7:30pm
Thursday, August 18, 7:30pm
Friday, August 19, 7:30pm
Saturday, August 20, 7:30pm
Sunday, August 21, 3:30pm
Admission is FREE at the door (first come, first served).
All performances are at the ARTS at Marks Garage 1159 Nu'uanu Ave.
Advance reservations available through Brown Paper Tickets.