The Prenzie Players will present Shakespeare's `Twelfth Night' at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 28-29 and at 7 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 30 at the Montgomery Ward building, 1502 6th Ave., Moline. Tickets are $8, $5 for students and seniors.
Inside the historic Montgomery Ward building, the melody of a song reverberates off the stark walls. The words of the song, sung by a dozen or so people, bounce off the few props --- a piano, some alcohol bottles on a stair railing, a couple suits of armor, some benches --- and get lost in the high ceilings. The few white curtains already hung flutter slightly as the room is filled with the melody of the song --- a song from the new Prenzie Players' production of "Twelfth Night."
Every member of the cast and the creative team behind the play are dressed in modern clothes, and this won't change during the performances. Also, audience members won’t be allowed to just sit there and watch. Often they will be required to participate as well, becoming as much a part of the play as the actors.
The Prenzie Players is that kind of theater company. According to its Web site (www.prenzieplayers.com), it is an "innovative, guerilla-theater troupe of passionate actors whose mission is to present serious Shakespeare using only bare-bones staging and production, but with meticulous attention to language, speed and feeling." This is not the kind of Shakespeare most of us are used to. And that is precisely the reason the Prenzies do what they do.
"My own intuition is that Shakespeare's plays in his own days were much more interactive, much more gripping, much more emotionally demanding than is commonly thought," said J.C. Luxton, founding member and assistant director of "Twelfth Night." "Shakespeare is not interesting for historical reasons. Shakespeare is interesting for immediate, aesthetic reasons, a simulacrum of the way, for example, a love relationship is interesting to those within it."
The very reasons Mr. Luxton named are among the reasons Stephanie Burrough, director, was attracted to this 400-year-old play. "This is a play about love and revelry and mistaken identity. And disguises. It confronts the disguises we all put on in different social states and how they are shed in love. The play also addresses the good life and drunken revelry and how it can get out of hand. These are issues we are still dealing with today," she said.
"Twelfth Night" is a play that keeps coming back to Ms. Burrough. She played Viola in the 2000 Genesius Guild production of the play, which made her want to do theater, particularly classical theater.
While directing the play has been "a whirlwind experience," Ms. Burrough said she’s glad she’s doing it. "I really wanted to work with them. They respect the job of putting on a play and doing a good job at it. It's a good environment to work in."
Ms. Burrough said potential audience members should arrive early, as space is limited, and they should be prepared for some audience participation. "Audience members should not be afraid," she said.