Putting together a Shakespeare play may seem like a daunting task, but for director Louis Butelli, it was a chance to explore something new. This month, Butelli is directing the USC Department of Theatre and Dance's production of "Twelfth Night."
"This is my first time directing it, and so I wanted to try something that I've never done before," Butelli said.
Butelli has a prolific theater portfolio that includes performances in more than 25 classic plays, appearances in Off-Broadway shows and the creation of a nonprofit production company in Los Angeles. He is specifically familiar with “Twelfth Night” because he has worked in two separate productions as an actor before taking it on as director this fall.
The entire cast is populated by USC actors — undergraduate and graduate students alike.
In the case of "Twelfth Night," the actors vary in terms of work experience. Some have already done professional shows, while others have only been involved in other USC productions. One of the main actors is a first-year student.
“You have to approach each cast member as an individual human being, because everybody comes to it with very different skill sets and experience,” Butelli said.
Creating the show from start to finish has been a relatively rapid process. Planning began a few months ago and auditions were held at the beginning of the fall semester. Rehearsals started the day after the cast was set, and they have been rolling forward ever since.
“Twelfth Night” is in its final stages of production and currently running through dress rehearsals, where the cast is still polishing things up.
After Tuesday’s dress rehearsal, when asked if the cast and crew had run into any major mishaps throughout the production process, Butelli said: “Tonight was mainly major mishaps.”
The show, which premieres Friday, Oct. 6, is essentially a comedy about messy love and deceit. Butelli’s version of the classic story is punctuated by musical performances in the style of old-school Hollywood.
Several songs in the show were composed by Matthew Marsh, a friend of Butelli’s out of New York. Other musical numbers are a rag-tag assortment of improvisations or selected from a collection of America’s most popular songs.
Butelli’s intention is to create something that will resonate with people today in an easier, more friendly manner than a lot of the media we interact with on a daily basis.
“It’s like a giant storm of news and anxiety,” Butelli said of our our present state of information consumption.
“I think [Americans] think of the golden age of Hollywood as a time where things were - things felt a little bit better," he said. "So I wanted to kind of think back to that, to make us feel a little bit better in this crazy moment.”