Illyria, or What You Will
Freely adapted from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
By Jonelle Walker and Mitchell Hébert
Directed by Mitchell Hébert
October 18 to November 18, 2018
Gunston Arts Center Theatre Two
Opening night: Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 7:30 pm
Illyria reimagines Shakespeare’s comedy of mixed-signal love as a bohemian cabaret in an underground queer club in early ’80s Manhattan, where identity, sex, and gender are what you will—and everyone finds freedom to be who they truly are. But who will fall in love with whom? This fresh slant on a classic shakes up Shakespeare with the driving beats and dingy glamor of the post-disco era.
From the director, Mitchell Hébert:
In Illyria, everybody gets to tell their story unobstructed. All the characters are explored fully and completely. That includes a trans character, gay men, a straight man (who may or may not be bisexual), a pansexual woman, and a drag queen and two women performing masculinity.
I look for actors with big hearts, big talent, and generosity, so we can build a theatrical community. And that’s what has happened.
I want the audience to be moved. I want their hearts to open up, whether they’re straight, gay, queer, non-binary, gender nonconforming, whatever. Wherever they live, whoever they live with, I want them to feel the warmth of love that washes over them in Illyria and in some way bring that into their lives.
I don’t want to presume a response. But I do hope that they fall in love with these people and take that love out into the world. Because I have, we all have. We love them. We really do.
Advisory: This show, which is set in the 1980s New York City club scene, contains strong language, depictions of drug use, and risqué situations.
Jonelle Walker (Co-adapter) is a Helen Hayes Award–nominated playwright, theatre-maker, and scholar who lives and works in Washington, DC, but will always call Texas home. Her work as a playwright includes TAME. (2016), Prophets of Doom (2016), The Theatre of Self-Loathing (2015), and numerous short plays. She is a Company Member and Associate Producer with Rorschach Theatre. Jonelle holds an MA and is pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Maryland.
Mitchell Hébert (Director, Co-adapter) has worked as a director at Round House Theatre (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Glengarry Glen Ross), Forum Theatre (The Illusion), Olney Theatre Center (Rabbit Hole), and Adventure Theatre (Judy Moody and Stink). As an actor his recent roles include Richard Burbage and Ben Jonson in The Book of Will (Round House Theatre), Roy Cohn in Angels in America parts 1 and 2 (a co-production of Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center), and Arnold in Hir (Woolly Mammoth Theatre). At the University of Maryland where he is on the faculty he has directed Eurydice, The Amish Project, and The Distance from Here and co-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was performed at UMD and The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, in Beijing, China. Mitch has received Helen Hayes Awards for both acting (After the Fall, Theatre J) and directing (Glengarry Glen Ross at Round House Theatre) in addition to several nominations as an actor and director.
The Cast of Illyria and Their Pronouns