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Welcome to Theater Grottesco's blog page! Join us on a journey through the world of physical theater and storytelling. Get insights, read reviews, and enjoy behind-the-scenes stories about our productions.

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Grottesco's 12th Night

"When will Grottesco take on a classic?"Maybe it was a set up question. Then again, maybe there is more in the classics than we usually see and Grottesco might be able to root something out of interest. 

Most plays are still notated by words, not action. In Shakespeare's time, the English were just becoming literate so words were the new technology, like streaming and tweeting today. Whatever the reason, scriptstell usdramatic moments, it's up to the theatre artists toshow us. And if the audience doesn't believe each of those dramatic moments, it's over. They're not invested. 

Scholars debate whether Twelfth Night was ever performed before common people. It was commissioned by royalty and is a play seen through their lens. Royalty having a laugh at what might have been a satirical situation is one angle to view this play. But would common people have bought in, if they had been invited? And what would the servants, who had to have been present in the private showings, have thought of it?

If the servants took it literally, how was it for them to witness their masters' descents into obsession? What happens to an estate (or any economic state) when the leaders no longer have the will to nurture it? What happens to the people if that state fails? What are the steps of decline? Grottesco's 12th Night transformed this beloved comedy into a social comedy and then into a tragic-comic—a nation house adrift on a sea of decadence. 

"Fried Valencia oranges with nutmeg and cinnamon in a brown sugar mustard" was the description of the dessert that was served at a mock dinner to the starving servants where Mona, with a yoke around her neck, became the dining table. we toasted the Duke and each of us, at some point, put on his cape and became him. Charles' Duke, argued with a servant (also played by Charles), dragging himself across the stage by his hair. A black plastic tarp was the ocean and the Duke's warning bell was just the wind blowing a shutter into the room."

—Rod Harrison, ensemble member

"I looked at the 12th Night set when it was finished and thought, "That's the biggest piece of sculpture I've ever made." Still is, with the exception of a house or two. We constructed it at the Outlet Mall and then took it in sections to Stieren Hall at the Opera where we put it back together. When the door at the back was put on hinges there was nothing left to do, although I felt like something else was needed. I stopped by a few days later when the cast was rehearsing in Sylvie's costumes under Ian's lighting, with Dino's sound design filling the room, and realized what had been missing."  —Patrick Mehaffy, set designer and construction director

"One of the beautiful things about working with Theater Grottesco is looking back and recognizing the moments where, as an ensemble, we are able to hurl ourselves into the unknown and arrive at a collective understanding that becomes our vessel—our world of play. I was new to the company when we began work on 12th Night. I remember in those early rehearsals stumbling through various improvisations and the long silences that followed readings of proposed texts... At some point, we started playing a version of 4 Square as a warmup. It probably started with two people tossing a ball around, but eventually, there was masking tape on the floor, a ball that was properly inflated, and a set of important rules to follow. Then came the adaptations for more than four players at a time, additional squares, and all kinds of posturing and s@#$-talking Before long, we were playing as soon as we walked in the rehearsal door and for far longer than a warmup would typically last. 45 minutes into rehearsal, we were sweating, breathless, laughing hysterically, and spiking a rubber ball at each other while assuming various competitive "roles" with voices and physicalities to boot. Ultimately, the game, which we adoringly referred to as "BALL" made its way into the show. At the end, as the servants prepare to meet their doom, the play crescendos into a scene of frenzied panic and chaos—a collectively choreographed dance of flying brooms, plates, and swaths of fabric from perches atop various set pieces. No doubt our jubilant athleticism, excellent reflexes and fierce adherence to "the rules" fueled this ensemble work. Perhaps it started as a diversion, but this devotion to play built relationships and trust, and helped us crack open a strange new world." —Kate Kita, ensemble member 

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