AthensWest gives Shakespeare the Kentucky treatment
A behind-the-curtain look at a play showing all this weekend at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre—it's William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but based here in Lexington.
Kristen Taylor plays multiple characters in the AthensWest production and explains that it begins—instead of with a shipwreck off the coast of the kingdom of Illyria—with a paddleboat wreck on the Kentucky River.
"We follow twins Sebastian and Viola who wash ashore on the shores of Lexington. They’re separated and Viola has to find work and so disguises herself as a young man, and gets work wooing a lady love of the Duke of the city—and then a love triangle ensues and then chaos [laughter]."
The Commonwealth connections continue with the Baron Olivia, who inherits a bourbon distillery, and the Duke Orsino, who’s an equestrian. Taylor plays Antonio and Feste the Fool, whose songs were adapted by the actress to feature the folk music she grew up playing.
"Drew Fracher, our wonderful director, contacted me and pitched the idea and was like ‘here are a couple of Feste’s songs,’ that were Shakespeare’s lovely words, and I had the task of setting them to folk rhythm and folk music. So I composed all the live music you will hear in the show . . . I was raised going to little folk music festivals and stuff—everybody plays, everybody sings in the family. I myself play six—now seven—instruments, because I’ve picked up the spoons since being in Twelfth Night. It was such fun and it was a lovely opportunity for me—you rarely get to marry your upbringing roots with Shakespeare. It was such a treat to marry those two."
AthensWest Theatre Company takes its name from Lexington's eighteenth-century nickname: "the Athens of the West.” Taylor says the company is like family, and they’ve done a good job producing shows in the midst of COVID-19. To that point, masks are required to be worn by all attendees at Twelfth Night performances.
"They have done such a wonderful job of making sure that we’re all safe, that we’re all provided for, whatever we need—and overall just have room to make sure that we’re all having fun and that we’re all creating and collaborating together. That experience has been truly a treat and a dream."
Performances are at 7:30 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday. It’s 'pay what you will' Thursday only. Tickets and details here.