Meetup #17: Twelfth Night


Our third Meetup of the year was a roaring success! Cal Shakes’ gender-bending production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night helmed by Michelle Hensley was nothing short of inspired, who says “the madness of love and desire, the loss of reason and the lengths to which you’ll go with it” is what attracted her to the play. Her theater company, Ten Thousand Things (TTT) specializes in bringing high-quality theater productions to homeless shelters, prisons, and other community settings for free, as well as to more traditional performance spaces.

Karen D’Souza of San Jose Mercury News comes away very impressed by the lack of “campy” in this all-female production: “Hensley’s bare-bones approach pays off most handsomely in its embrace of single-sex casting. Much is made of productions that feature only male actors, as was the fashion in Elizabethan England. But there is often something campy about such gender-bending. Here the female cast plays all the parts without a hint of vaudeville, and very soon one forgets that there is anything unusual about the identity politics at work.”

Chad Jones of SFGate pays rich kudos to the decision to go all-female, which he says takes nothing away from the production quality: “But theatrical gender equality aside, Hensley’s “Twelfth Night,” a co-production of the California Shakespeare Theater and Intersection for the Arts, is so robust and satisfying that the characters end up mattering more than the sex of the actor under the costumes.

“And there’s one of the primary joys of “Twelfth Night,” especially in this unadorned but still beautifully detailed production: in the end, disguises are abandoned, the damaged are repaired and there’s a happy ending on a wonderfully human scale.”

Do share your thoughts if you were part of the Meetup (or not!)


Olivia – Maria Candelaria*
Malvolio/Valentine – Nancy Carlin*
Toby Belch – Catherine Castellanos*
Andrew Aguecheek – Patty Gallagher*
Viola/Sebastian – Cindy Im*
Orsino/Maria – Rami Margron*
Feste/Antonio – Sarita Ocón*

Creative Team:

Director – Michelle Hensley
Composer – Peter Vitale
Music – Olive Mitra
Costumes – Naomi Arnst, based on original designs by Sonya Berlovitz
Set Design – Erica Zaffarano
Props – Brittany White
Fight Choreography – Dave Maier
Stage Manager – Amanda Krieger*
Production Assistant – Whitney Krause

*Denotes member of Actor’s Equity.


7 responses to “Meetup #17: Twelfth Night

  1. Very clear and very layered! Fantastic fun, funny and moving work. I’ve read somewhere that Twelfth Night is like a relay race for a top ensemble – this group was a pit crew of the human condition. They put air in the tires, refilled the gas tank, and replaced the worn out parts then sent the audience on our way for the remaining laps of the race.

    • Hi Mary, I’m the blog editor. To join the group: Just visit the blog, look for our meetup announcements and sign up is all! We have another awesome meetup lined for March. Meetup seems to be down, but the link will be up soon on the left panel at the top of the blog.

      In the meanwhile, just check in here. And spread the word!

  2. This production was so delicious! For starters, the 7-woman all-union acting ensemble was absolutely fierce! How amazing to see all these accomplished women together onstage using their inventive physical comedy, sharp characterizations, and beautifully resonant voices to bring one of Shakespeare’s most dynamic comedies to life. As Valerie commented, the ensemble truly functioned as a well-oiled machine and the production was infused with a spirit of generosity and playfulness. I’ve enjoyed many productions of this play, but seeing Cindy Im embody both Sebastian and Viola at the end took my breath away and revealed new layers meaning about the fluidity of identity and how we discover ourselves more deeply in relationship to others. I loved director Michelle Hensley’s well-edited version of the text, and her simple but effective staging. The fact that audience were seated on all sides of the playing space and in full view under work lights throughout the performance highlighted the communal experience of the production and offered wonderful opportunities to enjoy others’ laughter and engagement. A very special experience!

  3. YES! Everything that Valerie Weak and Christine Young said. A marvelous, magical Twelfth Night, very funny, clear, and accessible while also emotionally rich and thematically complex. The entire ensemble was so good that I hesitate to comment on specific performances, but … Cindy Im’s performance as twins Sebastian and Viola was a tour de force, and it was a special treat for me to see Nancy Carlin (Malvolio/Valentine) and Rami Magron (Orsino/Maria) in these deliciously challenging roles because I have followed their careers for so many years. It’s for performances like these that I go to the theatre.

  4. I want to echo Val’s and Christine’s comments. This Twelfth Night was delightful from start to finish–beautiful ensemble work with not one wrong note.

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