Fall 2009 Issue

Shakespeare over ‘Easy’

The inspiration for “The Twelfth Night Project” hit Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Hugh Murphy when he received the movie “Moulin Rouge” from Netflix over the summer. The musical uses contemporary pop songs to tell a classic love story. And that’s when Murphy got the idea to do a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy featuring music from the present day, such as the Beyonce hit “Single Ladies,” as well as from the Summer of Love in 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.

“I wanted to find the parts of Shakespeare that are most universal in terms of the love story and the low comedy and those are the things we kept intact,” Murphy said. “What we got rid of is all that Elizabethan wordplay. A modern audience would need a glossary and two hours of lecture to understand it.”

“The Twelfth Night Project” ran from October 22-25 in the Broad Center for the Performing Arts.

The modern retelling moves the action of the play from “Illyria” on the Italian coast to New Orleans and from the Elizabethan era to the period around The Summer of Love, considered a defining moment of the 1960s, as the hippie counterculture movement came into public awareness.

The play’s heroine, Viola, is shipwrecked and forced to disguise herself as Cesario, a young courtier. Sent to deliver the love messages of Count Orsino to Lady Olivia, Viola finds herself attracted to Orsino and the subject of Olivia’s affections. Things get even more complicated when her “party hearty” relatives become involved in the craziness.

A talented cast made up of 14 Barry undergraduates performed in the play, which was written by Murphy with assistance from his students.