SPECIAL PREVIEW: Scrappy Shakespeare Brings Twelfth Night to the 1950’s at Converse College

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The cast of Scrappy Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

BY SANDY STAGGS
ARTS WRITER

Sparkle City will soon lose some of its luster as one its arts community icons begins his final swan song and show this week with Scrappy Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Converse College.

Tim Giles – host of the live late-night talk show “The Latest Thing in Spartanburg,” actor, composer and co-founder of Spartanburg’s only Shakespeare theatre company – concludes his assignment as Assistant Director at HUB-BUB, our local creative magnet that has helped transform our humble town into a dynamic hotbed of artistic endeavors.

Hub-Bub is being merged under the Chapman Cultural Center in our vibrant Spartanburg Downtown Cultural District and Giles will soon prepare for a move to the great state of Texas to embark on a new chapter in his life and career.

“I’m not sure what I want to do,” he told Carolina Curtain Call recently at downtown’s hippest coffee spot Little River Coffee Bar. But finding work and saving for grad school is high on his list.

Launched just two summers ago, Scrappy Shakespeare debuted with the Bard’s most beloved comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The George campus beside Chapman Cultural Center. And last year the troupe mounted its first tragedy “Macbeth” at Denny’s Plaza.

Alastair Mann is the Man in “Twelfth Night.” Is that a poodle skirt?

“Twelfth Night,” one of Shakespeare’s most produced comedies, is set on the coast of Illyria where fraternal twins Viola (played by Scrappy founding member Sarah Hurley) and Sebastian (played by Maddie Tisdel) are separated during a tempest.

In typical Bard gender-bending manner, Viola disguises herself as a man and finds herself in a precarious and hilarious romantic triangle that ends happily ever after with everyone coupling in an ordered fashion.

And this production directed by Giles features nearly all women.

“I thought it would be fun to have an all-female cast,” said Giles. “Particularly because ‘Twelfth Night’ is a show that only has three women character and the rest are all men.”

“I am excited about that because the theatre world is always populated with more male characters,” he added. “I have to talk about it in my pre-show speech.”

After all, “Twelfth Night” is being stage at a women’s college and the company has three Connies on board: senior Maddie Tisdale (John the Baptist/Judas in the college’s tent revival of “Godspell,” senior Gem Taylor (who just got cast in Spartanburg Little Theatre’s fall opener “Legally Blonde: The Musical”), and junior Hannah Burgess, who lead “Godspell” as Jesus.

The 2017 line-up also includes founding member Anna Abhau Elliott (esteemed playwright and Sparkle City Improv co-founder) and Connor Vetter, who returns after debuting in “Macbeth.”

The sole man in the cast is Alastair Mann, one of Spartanburg’s most well-rounded performers who is also in Sparkle City Improv and recently appeared as Zeus in Ballet Spartanburg’s “Pandora’s Box.”

Maddie Tisdel and Connor Vetter in “Twelfth Night.”

Giles has set the play in the 1950s, and though he did not alter the script to fit the time period, the music and costumes reflect the blissful 1950s aesthetic and the age of poodle skirts and drive-in theaters.

Shakespeare included several songs in “Twelfth Night” and Giles has set the Bard’s lyrics to the musical styles of 1950s and early 1960s.

“The music is fun to play with,” he said. “Doo-wop and early rock and roll I think it fits “Twelfth Night” because the people who fall in love are so crazy about how much love they have for the other people.”

“There is this hormonal intense love that goes throughout the play that really fits the early rock and roll era and the mixture of adolescent innocence that’s also almost becoming more about sexuality when Elvis Presley swiveled his hips on stage [and TV sort of],” Giles pontificated as he showed off the hot-off-the-press glossy posters for “Twelfth Night” featuring a semi-colorized vintage black-and-white photo of ecstatic young women at an Elvis concert.

An Mann as the jester Feste does most of the singing in the show while “Xanadu” leading lady Anna Elyse Lewis (opening July 14), styled some doo-wop harmonies for the ensemble.

And although the atmosphere won’t be as rowdy as HUB-BUB’s popular “Drive-By Shakespeare” series at the Grauler Haus where actors imbibe craft beer and perform Shakespeare in uproarious flash-mob mode, Giles says the mood will be relaxed.

“Grauler Haus will be there selling beer and I don’t want people to feel like they can’t get up in the middle of the show and grab a beer,” he added.

The audience is seated at the courtyard tables and the actors “will move about freely, allowing the cast to immerse themselves within the audience more,” he said.

Sarah Hurley and Anna Abhau Elliott in “Twelfth Night.”

The play’s blocking isn’t rigid because he wanted them to “be able to change every night depending on where people are and who they are interacting with the ability to change the movement patterns.”

And Giles noted that while the Wilson Hall courtyard is not the most visible public space like Denny’s Plaza, the site has far fewer distracting factors such as loud cars and such.

Scrappy also plans to take this show to the new Grauler Haus in the west village of Greenville as well as another new space in Asheville.

And though Giles is exploring educational artistic opportunities in the West, he says he would like to return next summer for Scrappy Shakespeare.

We can only hope.

“Twelfth Night” opens Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and runs Thursdays-Sundays through June 25 at Converse College in the courtyard behind Wilson Hall. FREE. For more information, visit http://scrappyshakes.weebly.com/.

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