If music be the food of love...

Folger Theatre- Washington, DC



A giddy whirlwind of romance, song and dance.
-Xandra Weaver


Earlier, I said this was one of the finest ensembles currently at work on local stages, and I don’t say that lightly. As individual actors, each of the eleven company memebers are top-notch, but their work creating the world of “Twelfth Night” is theatre magic. 
-Jeff Walker


What Richmond wishes for, apparently, is a sort of pleasure dome where music and peopel and beautiful objects compensate for the shipwrecks that all of us have to endure. If that kind of wishing is the food of love, Mr. Richmond, play on. 
-Mark Dewey


Photo credit: Scott Suchman



Twelfth Night is such a deliciously romantic, fun and moving story. After the masculine and aggressive war play of Henry V, we have relished the opportunity to create a world that is so elegant and whimsical. It is a charming play about love in its many forms: unconditional love, unrequited love, self-love, compassionate love, and true love. Each character in the play seeks love in one way or another. Some are successful in their quest, and some are not.

The historical traditions of Twelfth night, the last celebration of the Christmas holidays, including the Lord of Misrule, role and gender reversal, and topsy-turvy nature of servants becoming the masters, would have been understood by Shakespeare’s audience. This leads us to ask: what and where is Illyria today?

The creative team and I set about finding a world in which the moral, ethical and social status of the play would come to life, and we landed somewhere at the beginning of the 1900s. The play conjures a world that cannot move forward without a catalyst, a world where change had to take place, a world that, despite how hard character may resist, could not avoid the ebb and flow of fate or of time.

We began discussing geographical sites known for their ship wrecks and coastlines that remain remote, mystical and dangerous. Our research drew me towards the sinking of the Lusitania off the southern coast of Ireland in May 1915. The notion of the class distinction onboard a luxury cruise liner, the right of passage of crossing the Atlantic, and the enforced equality of the passengers on board a ship that was singing all began to solidify in our thoughts.

And placing the story in this time allows us to explore the musical highlights of the popular tunes and the classical composers of the day. Music, which is a fundamental ingredient to this story, has given us a springboard to dive into the emotional depths of the play and allow this multi-talented cast an opportunity to sing, dance, and play musical instruments in the true spirit of an ensemble.

With all this in mind, I began to think about the subtitle of the play, “What You Will,” and I thought perhaps that in this love-seeking, love-needing world that might be better thought of as, “What You Wish.”

Our Illyria is a place where fantasy and reality collide, but class distinctions and gender blur, and love is a currency that everyone seeks. It is, like all great Shakespeare plays, ambiguous, and we hope that you will take from it what you wish.

Helen Hayes Awards


The James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Play
Louis Butelli (Feste)
Richard Sheridan Willis (Malvolio)

Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Play
Mariah Hale

Production Team
Director—Robert Richmond

Scenic Design—Tony Cisek*

Costume Design—Mariah Hale

Lighting Design—Andrew F. Griffin*

Sound Design—Matthew M. Nielson*

Fight Director—Casey Dean Kaleba

Resident Dramaturg—Michele Osherow

Production Stage Manager—Che Wernsman**

Promotional Photography—James Kegley

Production Photography—Scott Suchman