Students perform “Twelfth Night” for the University of Maine School of Performing Arts’ on-demand, virtual production of the play. Courtesy of the University of Maine Contributed

ORONO — The University of Maine School of Performing Arts will present an on-demand virtual production of its final spring 2021 show, William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” filmed in the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden on the UMaine campus and streaming online through May 9.

“Twelfth Night,” one of Shakespeare’s best-known romantic comedies, centers on twins Viola and Sebastian, separated by a shipwreck and each presuming the other drowned. Viola disguises herself as a man (Cesario) and must woo Olivia on behalf of “his” boss, Duke Orsino. Olivia rejects Orsino and falls in love with Cesario, but ends up marrying Sebastian. If that sounds confusing, director and UMaine theatre instructor Julie Arnold Lisnet says then that’s all the more reason to see this enchanting show — because it all becomes quickly, and hilariously, clear.

Lisnet explains in a news release that the School of Performing Arts chose to produce “Twelfth Night” to give UMaine students the chance to experience Shakespeare. Though familiar with his work in literature classrooms, for some this was their first exposure to Shakespeare.

That experience was significant for Katie Brayson of Orono, a psychology and theatre double major who plays Viola. “This is my first time ever performing Shakespeare,” she says, “and I remember [director] Julie [Lisnet] asking us, even before auditions, who was afraid of Shakespeare. I raised my hand because Early Modern English has a reputation for being challenging, but then I remember Julie saying ‘Shakespeare was just a guy who ate, drank and had emotions just like us, there’s no reason to fear his writing,’ and for some reason, bringing Shakespeare to our level motivated me to unravel the human emotion behind his words.”

Brayson says she came to love and appreciate Shakespeare for not only his dramatics, but the unexpected moments of comedy — especially physical comedy — that give this show its charm.

For Owen Sinclair, a theatre major from Rangeley who plays Duke Orsino, the challenge was less about Shakespeare himself and more about the contours of an outdoor production in the midst of a pandemic. While the play’s staging in Littlefield Garden provides beauty and magic for both performers and audience — as well as a glimpse of the majesty of the UMaine campus in spring —  Sinclair admits it presented difficulties. “Performing Shakespeare isn’t what makes this production a refreshing challenge; performing fast-paced Shakespeare outside is. We have to work against so many external elements such as weather, sunlight and COVID restrictions.”

Still, he says, the cast and crew overcame every curveball thrown their way. “Our team was ready to make it work! One thing that we haven’t lost is the ability to bond as a cast and still create the beautiful art that we all love.”

Andrew Beaucage, a first-year music education major who plays the sea captain, agreed. “Twelfth Night” is Beaucage’s first stage performance at UMaine. “Everyone welcomed me with open arms. Everyone involved has been a blast to work with, and it feels like I’m learning something new every day I work with this wonderful cast and crew.”

Anyone interested in viewing the UMaine production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night can purchase 48-hour rentals for $12, or $3 with a MaineCard, at showtix4u.com/events/19744.

For more information, email Brian Jansen, [email protected].

Comments are not available on this story.