Local theatre company trades traditional Shakespeare costumes for flannel shirts and combat boots

KINGSPORT — A local theater company trades fancy collars and corsets for flannel shirts and combat books in its production of Shakespeare’s, “Twelfth Night.”

The State Theatre Company seeks to relate an old comedy to modern audiences in their upcoming production of this classic play. The show is set in the early 90s, which is reflected in the edgy costumes, artistic set and original music in an alternative and grunge rock style, composed by local East Tennessee band, Indighost.

This unique adaptation is the brain child of Zachary Starnes, the director of the show and managing director of the State Theatre Company.

“We’d seen too many Shakespeare shows in this area done traditionally. We believe in the freedom you are given with Shakespeare, and we strive to challenge our creativity in the way it is presented,” said Starnes.

The play tells the story of Viola, a girl who, after nearly drowning, arrives in a foreign place and disguises herself as a man, Cesario, to get close to Duke Orsino, better known in this adaptation by his rocker persona, “The Duke.” Viola becomes his confidante and is sent by Orsino to win the favor of Olivia, who in this case is the new owner of a record label. Thinking Viola is a man, Olivia falls in love with Viola (Cesario) instead of Orsino, creating a problematic and hilarious love triangle.

This is not the first makeover the State Theatre Company has given The Bard’s work and won’t be their last. In fact, their very first show last fall was “Romeo and Juliet,” set in the turn of the century right here in Appalachia.

“Shakespeare wrote to be relatable. That is why he has outlasted his era. People often dismiss or don’t commit to experiencing his work, because they find the language hard to understand. However, if you are able to communicate the intentions of the text clearly and bring Shakespeare to the audience’s level, then they will understand,” said Starnes.

This newly-adapted classic will officially opened on June 29 and will run until July 16 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at Taylored Venue and Events at 115 Shelby Street in downtown Kingsport.


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