New troupe to gender-bend ‘Twelfth Night’ at the DC War Memorial

A new adaptation with pop music, performed by Her Majesty & Sons al fresco.

A new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s comedic classic Twelfth Night — a 90-minute version with a music score excerpted from the 1960s and ’70s pop songbook — will be among the first professional live theater productions in the DC area next month when a newly formed troupe, Her Majesty & Sons, debuts the show August 5 to 15, 2021, at the iconic DC War Memorial.

Twelfth Night is adapted and directed by Séamus Miller, a DC-based director who previously directed Julius Caesar at the War Memorial. While the War Memorial is now widely known as a wedding venue, it was designed both as a memorial to soldiers from DC during World War I and as a bandshell, which makes it acoustically ideal to support text and music.

Michael Wood, Jessica Lefkow, and Tori Boutin, appearing in ‘Twelfth Night.’ Photo by Michael Haller.

The cast, which doubles as live musicians under the musical direction of Tori Boutin, is composed of DC-based actors who have been seen in productions at Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Theatre, Studio Theater, and Signature Theatre, among others: Tori Boutin, Anna DiGiovanni, Rachel Felstein, Terrance Fleming, Shubhangi Kuchibhotla, Jessica Lefkow, Ryan Sellers, and Michael Wood.

One of Shakespeare’s most enduring romantic comedies, believed to have been written in 1601 or 1602 and considered the Bard’s last true comedy, Twelfth Night dabbled in gender fluidity long before today: an orphaned young woman, disguised as a male page, falls in love with a Duke, who is already in love with a Lady who spurns him. The Duke dispatches the page to deliver messages of adoration to the Lady, who promptly falls in love with the page. Secret identities, cross-dressing, unrequited love, and a shipwreck — well, this is just the beginning of Shakespeare’s forward-thinking tale.

Miller has directed numerous productions of Shakespeare, including Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore. He has appeared as an actor at Folger Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, 1st Stage, and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, among others, and was the creator and photographer for Chesapeake’s nationally recognized The Monument Project, which reimagined the vacant plinths of former Confederate statues in Baltimore for a portrait-series of Black Shakespearean actors from CSC.

Her Majesty & Sons founders and producers Anna DiGiovanni and Rachel Felstein have been, like most in the theater community, unable to work as actors since the pandemic struck over one year ago. Earlier this year as vaccines were just becoming widely available, they conceived this al fresco production of Twelfth Night together with Miller, and assembled a phenomenal cast from their DC theater community.

The cast of ’Twelfth Night’ (clockwise from top left): Terrance Fleming, Anna DiGiovanni, Shubhangi Kuchibhotla, Michael Wood, Ryan Sellars, Jessica Lefkow, Rachel Felstein, Tori Boutin. Photos by Michael Haller.

Rachel Felstein (Malvolio) has acted with such DC-area companies as Arena Stage in the world premiere of Right to Be Forgotten, Mosaic Theater Company, Taffety Punk, and Washington Stage Guild; in New York at BAM, City Center, and Ensemble Studio Theatre; and regionally with Virginia Stage Company and Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey among others.

Anna DiGiovanni (Viola) has acted in Venus in Fur at 4615 Theatre Company, in productions at Rorschach and Prologue, and with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Romeo & Juliet and Measure for Measure.

Tori Boutin (Andrew Aguecheek) is resident music director for Prince George’s County Shakespeare in the Parks and has performed with such companies as Constellation Theatre, Rorschach Theatre, Adventure Theatre, Imagination Stage, We Happy Few, Brave Spirits, and Faction of Fools.

Shubhangi Kuchibhotla (Olivia) most recently appeared in Be Here Now at Everyman Theatre. Other credits include Right to Be Forgotten at Arena Stage, White Snake at Constellation Theatre, and multiple productions with Annapolis Shakespeare Company.

Jessica Lefkow (Toby Belch) was most recently seen in In the Middle of the Field with Solas Nua, and has performed with Olney Theatre Center, 1st Stage, Keegan Theatre, Taffety Punk, We Happy Few, and Brave Spirits Theatre Company.

Terrence Fleming (Orsino) performed in Dracula and Romeo and Juliet with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Hamlet with Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Jerusalem with Fells Point Corner Theatre, and multiple shows with Artscentric Theatre.

Ryan Sellers (Feste / Antonio) has performed with Synetic Theater in many productions including adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Othello. He has also worked with Shakespeare Theatre Co, Signature Theatre, Folger Theatre, Studio Theatre, and most recently Solas Nua among others.

Michael Wood (Maria / Sebastian) appeared with Imagination Stage in Cinderella, Rep Stage in The 39 Steps, and with Olney Theatre in Singin in the Rain, Miss You Like Hell, and its upcoming Beauty and the Beast. Regionally he has been seen with companies such as Prather Entertainment, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, and Gold Dust Orphans.

For this production, producers Anna DiGiovanni and Rachel Felstein have been working closely with director Séamus Miller to design sets and costumes that capture the fun and free love spirit of the 1970s while bringing this incredible cast of characters to ebullient life. Stage Manager Genny Ceperley (Theater Alliance, Monumental Theatre Company), Choreographer Andre Hinds (Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre), Voice and Text Coach Acacia Danielsson (Folger Theatre), and Artistic Associate Kathleen Akerley (Artistic Director, Longacre Lea) round out the production team. The producers are proud to be working with Actors Equity Association on this production to ensure a safe working environment and fair wages for the entire team.

Twelfth Night presented by Her Majesty & Sons runs August 5 to 15, 2021, Thursdays to Sundays, at the DC War Memorial on the National Mall. Opening night is August 7. All curtains at 7 p.m. Tickets ($25, seated; $10, standing) can be purchased online.

The DC War Memorial is located closest to the parking lot at 9810 Independence Ave SW. The lot is metered until 8 p.m. Free parking is available on Constitution Avenue after 6 p.m.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here