“Shakespeare in Love” to premiere at Ice House Theatre on August 3

Did you know that the original title for Shakespeare’s most famous love story was “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter”?

It does not have quite the same ring does it? It might even bring a smile to your face or a chuckle to your soul.

“Shakespeare in Love”, the Visalia Players opening show of their 62nd season, is full of surprises and laughter as a struggling Will attempts to make the deadline set by the Queen for his next production.

Uninspired and running out of money, he is looking anywhere for salvation.

Enter the lovely Viola who has a thwarted passion for the theatre – women are not allowed to perform on stage in Elizabethan England.

Her desire for acting being stronger than any fear of authority, Viola disguises herself as a man and auditions. Her talent lands her a leading role in Will’s play.

The loving relationship that develops between Will and Viola is complicated by her prearranged marriage to Lord Wessex. The lovers appear to be star-crossed. Sound familiar?

Portraying young Will is Mason Garcia, last seen as Hipockets Duncan in “Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story.” Garcia noted that playwrights Norman and Stoppard, “have created a story about love and loss and tie it all together in a funny yet inspirational way.”

When asked about his relationship to other characters in the play, Garcia explained, “His only real friend is Marlow.

He looks up to him as a mentor, but when he doesn’t have Marlow to rely on, he comes into his own.”

Isabella O’Keffee identifies Viola as “a feminist for her time period. She wants the freedom to act and to marry whomever she wants.”

She discussed the difficulty of finding a balance between femininity and masculinity that her role requires and mused that audiences do not always appreciate the time and effort that actors expend attempting to make their characters believable.

Preventing any woman from performing on stage is The Master of the Revels to the Queen, Edmund Tilney. Michael Taber says of Tilney, “he loves the power assigned to him. Any play he doesn’t like won’t see the light of day.” A glance at the history of Tilney indicates that he was responsible for the censorship of drama in England and made The Master of Revels an institution.

Despite its huge cast (22 actors playing 37 characters), Director Teresa Hylton emphasized that this is not a “Shakespearian Play”, but rather a light comedy to be enjoyed by all.

If, on the other hand, you are familiar with Shakespeare’s works, Hylton noted “the play includes turns of phase that Shakespearian lovers will recognize and appreciate.”

“Shakespeare in Love” runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia.

Evening performances are at 7:30 pm on 8/3, 8/4, 8/10/, 8/11, 8/17, and 8/18, and matinees are at 2pm on 8/5, 8/12, and 8/19.

To purchase tickets go to the Visalia Players’ website at www.visaliaplayers.org, their Facebook page “Visalia Community Players”, or call 734-3900.

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