'Twelfth Night' to draw on creative collaboration

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A pair of twins separated in infancy; an elaborate disguise that sees a female protagonist posing as a man; romantic love that’s derailed by circumstance and human foibles.

The basic comedic elements that give William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” its spirit and charm were nothing new to Elizabethan audiences in the early 17th century – indeed, they stood as stock features of the most popular stage shows of the day. It was Shakespeare’s genius for putting these familiar narrative elements in an innovative context that made the comedy a consistent fan favorite for centuries after its debut around 1602.

Cast and crew members from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival are betting on that durable appeal as they prepare to kick off a production of “Twelfth Night” at the Arvada Center’s Black Box theater starting on May 1.

As the first formal collaboration between the Arvada Center and the Boulder-based Shakespeare Festival, the production pools creative resources and financing, even as it seeks to draw a new audience to a local dramatic tradition that stretches back to 1958. While the Arvada Center has hosted touring CSF productions in the past for its outdoor “CenterFest” series, this production is a first for both companies, a joint creative and financial investment that could become a model in future years.

“We are sharing all of the pre-production costs … We both save money because we share rehearsal costs, design costs, bill costs, all of those kinds of things. We also share artistic decision making,” Sneed said, pointing to the two theaters’ very distinct audience bases. “We’re 17 miles apart, (but) we found very little overlap in our mailing lists.”

The production will run in the Arvada Center’s 220-seat Black Box theater from May 1 to May 27, before it moves to the Mary Rippon Theatre in Boulder at the beginning of June, an outdoor venue that boasts a capacity of more than 1,000.

“Doing Shakespeare in a smaller space frees you up to make choices that you can’t always make in a 1,000-seat auditorium,” said Geoffrey Kent, who plays Orsino and serves as the production’s fight coordinator. “You can get a laugh with an eyebrow raise. At the Rippon, I have to jump up and down and point at my eyebrow. The real challenge is taking it there and figuring out what is going to translate.”

The choice of “Twelfth Night” as the inaugural co-production between the two companies is a fitting choice according to Jamie Ann Romero, a six-year veteran of the CSF company who plays Fabian in the current production.

As the first Shakespeare piece produced at the Arvada Center since 1983, the production is bound to benefit from its combination of Elizabethan hijinks and the Bard’s personal touches, she said.

“It’s a lot of people’s favorite, and I think it’s because the characters are very real,” Romero said. “I find that you can feel the most and cry the hardest for the people who make you laugh. This play is full of comedy and real heart.”

Tickets and info: arvadacenter.com

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at [email protected] or 720-449-9707