Play not offensive

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rebecca Chenoweth asks a reasonable question in her recent letter to the editor (Empire, Oct. 25): If I attend Perseverance Theatre's production of "Twelfth Night," will I be offended? The answer is "No."

It is true that Shakespeare often deals with sensitive issues. "Romeo and Juliet" presents teen suicide. "Othello" deals with delicate racial issues, and "The Merchant of Venice" has been viewed as anti-Semitic. "Twelfth Night" features cross-dressing, mistaken gender identity and drunken behavior. Still, it is hard to believe that anyone would find this material upsetting, especially when treated in such a fanciful and absurd manner as Shakespeare has in this, perhaps his greatest comedy.

I suspect, however, that Ms. Chenoweth is more concerned with our interpretation. As artistic director of Perseverance Theatre and as director of this production, clear storytelling is the most important thing to me. Especially when approaching Shakespeare, the language and stage action must be clear. Directorial "concepts" interfere with understanding. Here's a secret: If you see a play and didn't understand what was happening or why, it is because the director did a poor job. It is not because you are unintelligent, as I often felt when I would see Shakespeare as a child.

So when you come to see "Twelfth Night," I guarantee that you will understand the play. You will also see terrific performances from our Juneau-based acting company, a gorgeous set and beautiful costumes. This is a family-friendly production and appropriate for all ages. I am proud to present it for our community.

In closing, a brief note about our partnership with Juneau-Douglas High School: We initiated the "Prologue" program last season, in association with our presentation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Actors visited every ninth-grade English class to work with students on scenes from the play, getting them up on their feet to speak the verse, as it was meant to be. All the classes then came to the theater to perform their scenes for parents and one another. Finally, everyone returned to see our production of the play. Over 130 students participated, and we intend to continue "Prologue" in connection with this season's productions of "Twelfth Night" and "The Crucible." It is our way of giving back to the community and providing students with the tools they need to understand the greatest plays ever written.

PJ Paparelli


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