UNCA Live Theater Returns With “Twelfth Night” – The Blue Banner


The auditorium theater lighting dims and the chatter of the restless audience turns from whispers to silence, as if the entire room is holding a collective breath. From the darkness, a spotlight grows and shines, illuminating the stage and the players on it. The show has started.

“Oh, I’m terrified,” said Nicholas Lock, who was cast in the spring production of “Twelfth Night” at UNCA. “Right before I go on stage, I jump backstage and try to shake it off because it’s always intense to see all eyes on you.”

Lock plays Sebastian, one of the main characters in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Lock began performing in live productions nearly 20 years ago. He prefers dramatic roles, but is happy to do comedy this season.

“One of the really funny things about Shakespeare, even comedies have these hints of that reality or that sadness because they even make jokes about things that are terrible,” he said.

“Twelfth Night” tells the comedic and romantic story of twin siblings who, after being shipwrecked and separated, take on new identities. Several intrigues are intertwined in the story and, as production manager Mikayla Wilson said, twists and turns ensue.

Ella Schneider, a sophomore studying environmental science and acting, plays Countess Olivia, one of the twins’ love interests.

“I love Shakespeare. It’s just different, it creates community,” Schneider said. “You have to dive deeper to get to know yourself a lot more.”

Originally from the Washington area, Schneider developed a love of theater at a young age. She joined drama productions as a young girl to boost her confidence. Schneider said she would like to continue acting even after graduating.

“We are creating something beautiful. We create art and that’s what we love to do with our lives,” she said.

“Shakespeare is meant to be seen,” said Wilson, the production manager.

Wilson, an Asheville native, graduated from UNCA last year and returned to work with the drama department.

“It was very nice to be in a rehearsal space again because I think that’s something I’ve missed a lot during the pandemic, just being able to exist in the same room with people,” said Wilson.

Wilson said that in the wake of the pandemic, the drama department is working hard to ensure the transition to live theater is smooth for everyone involved, including the cast, crew and audience.

“The reason theater is coming back with such a boom is you’re kind of tired of watching people on a screen, you’ve seen all the TV shows,” the stage manager said. “Having to see another person on stage telling you a story is something that people have really missed.”

Wilson said she and her team welcome students from all walks of life to join the theater. The 4 protagonists of the show all come from different departments, majors and backgrounds.

“My favorite part of acting is working with the actors. Just having all these people with different experiences and perspectives,” Lock said. “You’re able to listen to them and draw from them.”

Director Kirsten Leigh Daniel leads the cast through warm-up exercises in rehearsal.
(Olivia Kane)

To accommodate complex schedules and prevent student burnout, Wilson said the department is consciously working to be intentional with student time and creating more flexible rehearsals.

“We’ve had a lot more conversations in the department, which I’ve appreciated about why we’re pushing these students to only be able to be a theater student,” Wilson said.

The lovesick Duke Orsino, played by political science student David Gingold, opens the show as the first character on stage. This will be Gingold’s first performance in five years and his first performance of Shakespeare.

“I feel at home on stage,” the Connecticut native said. “It’s exhilarating. It’s also nerve-wracking, but there’s really no fear there. I’m really present just before a performance.

Gingold said he enjoyed taking on Shakespeare’s challenge and working on the story with his fellow cast members.

“It’s not the language itself, but it’s that every line, everything is intentional and everything is a puzzle,” Gingold said. “For me, it’s really about untangling it all.”

The entire cast said they would like to see more support for drama productions at UNCA.

“Nobody talks about our theater department because it’s so small,” Wilson said. “Letting people know that the theater department even exists is difficult, it just doesn’t attract the press.”

Wilson said he understands the financial stress, especially in the wake of the pandemic, so to encourage students to come and watch the show regardless of their circumstances, the theater department is offering free tickets to students.

The cast are eagerly preparing for the open house and once again performing to live, present audiences as they fast approach the final weeks of rehearsals.

“You finally see all that hard work that you put into the show taking shape,” Lock said.

“Twelfth Night” opens April 6 at the Belk Theater on campus. Tickets and additional production information are available online at the UNCA Theater Department website.


Comments are closed.