Traveling Players Ensemble returns to the Masonic Theatre with a production of Twelfth Night
Are you one of those who can’t get enough of Willy the Shake? Or perhaps you missed the recent production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Marlinton? Well you’re in luck! The Traveling Players Ensemble is returning to the Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge on August 2nd with a production of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. Jeanne Harrison gives a little background on the ensemble.
“The Traveling Players Ensemble is an education theatre company that works at professional standards,” she said. “We take exceptional teenagers to perform across Virginia.”
The players in TPE are high schoolers aged 15 to 18 from the Washington Metro area that have auditioned to be part of the summer performance camp. They rehearse for 5 weeks and then hit the road in their big purple bus to perform at venues all around Virginia. This is the 17th year for the program.
“Our mission is to bring great theatre and by great, I mean classical, into the great outdoors,” said Harrison. “We do a lot of Shakespeare In the Park and we bring the poetry that will build the world to our audience. We bring that to audiences in rural communities.”
Twelfth Night has something for everyone – a case of mistaken identity, a shipwreck, pirates and plenty of foolishness wrapped around a love story or two.
Getting through the audition to become a member of the camp experience is a daunting process.
“It’s a five-hour audition,” said Harrison. “I have to live with them to two weeks so I want to know who I really have! I do it because one of the things about young performers is they sometimes need a little bit of time to loosen up or maybe they can only really be on their “A-game” for a short amount of time. So I try to keep them in the room long enough so I see who’ve I really got. Then they’ve got to be bold and beautiful and go on tour just like the pros.”
TPE has been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as 1 of 25 model summer arts programs in the US. Harrison says some of the alumni have used the program as a launching pad for a career in the theater.
“We’ve got a director working off Broadway right now,” she said. “One of our alums just got a full ride [scholarship] for a MFA [Master of Fine Arts] program, so our kids have done quite well.”
TPE also offers a technical track for those students who prefer to work behind the scenes. That doesn’t mean that those primarily acting get off easy – Harrison says everyone pitches in with set building, costume making and even chopping vegetables for the meals they prepare while camping.
She says the comedy Twelfth Night has something for everyone – a case of mistaken identity, a shipwreck, pirates and plenty of foolishness wrapped around a love story or two. She said it continues to be one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies and is based on a historical festival.
“The Twelfth Night back in Shakespeare’s day was a festival that happened in the twelve days that followed Christmas,” she said. “And on the very last night, the twelfth night, it would be the last night of revelry, and it was a time when everyone could be little bit more permissive than they normally are. The next day all the previous order will come crashing back down and everyone now has to be good for a year.”
The Traveling Players Ensemble will perform William Shakespeare’s Twelth Night at 7pm on Friday, August 2nd at the historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge. Tickets are $10.00 and you can find out more about the Masonic Theatre at historicmasonictheatre.com.