Shakespeare in Love Presented By The Visalia Players

Aug 1, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.

Shakespeare in Love, as the opening show of the Visalia Players sixty-second season, is no accident. Based on a movie that won seven Academy awards, Shakespeare in Love is a light-hearted romantic comedy with themes familiar to all.

In Elizabethan England, the Queen loves the theatre, but needs to heed the mores of her subjects. She assigns that duty to The Master of Revels, Edmund Tilney. Tilney (Michael Taber) takes his job very seriously and history indicates that he turns The Master of Revels into an institution.

According to Taber, “Tilney does not like the arts and thinks actors are the lowest form of life. He is the moral compass of the time. A woman cannot be on stage. He believes he is doing England a service.” Taber, a student at COS, is getting back into acting after a hiatus. “Acting is keeping me fresh and helping me express myself.”


Mason Garcia (young Will), Isabella O’Keffee (Viola), and Michael Taber as Edmund Tilney in “Shakespeare In Love”

Young Will Shakespeare (Mason Garcia) has been commissioned by the Queen to write a new play. He has entitled the play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter, but now has writer’s block and his deadline is approaching. He is looking for inspiration in all quarters.

Garcia notes, “Will is young, poor, and struggling. He is wondering if writing is even his thing. Why has he given up acting for writing? He is very lost.”

Despite the fact that the play is incomplete, with the deadline approaching, auditions for the roles (such as they are) are being held. Viola de Lesseps (Isabella O’Keffee) has a passion for the theatre and loves Shakespeare’s plays, but the rules of The Master of Revels stand in her way. She is not allowed to act on stage.


Isabella O’Keffee as Viola and Mason Garcia as Will

Desperate to express her theatrical desires, she disguises herself as Thomas Kent and auditions. Her acting acumen lands her the role of Romeo, and thus, the plot thickens. In particular, she is committed to a prearranged marriage with Lord Wessex.

In considering her role, O’Keffee muses, “While dressed as a man, she falls in love with Will and her desire for acting and performing deepens. She turns to her nurse for help.” Is this beginning to sound familiar?


Isabella O’Keffee as Viola

In a cast of twenty-two portraying thirty-seven characters, a variance of age is inevitable. Director Teresa Hylton welcomes the variety after being an instructor of drama at Dinuba High School for twenty-three years. Being around actors with more experience is also valuable to students who followed Hylton from Dinuba to the Ice House for this production. The comment of Ramon Navarro (Adam/Actor – Proteus-Benvolio) is typical, “Being around college students and adults, we will gain experience from them. We can take back their knowledge to make us better actors.”

As with many of the actors in this play, Anyssa Vasquez has dual roles: Queen Elizabeth and Molly. These are the most polarized roles possible. Vasquez states, “The Queen is a great character. I like being her, but I’m not accustomed to being in authority. I like the feeling of power. It brings me out of my comfort zone.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Molly, a tavern whore, but as Vasquez explains, “It’s not a dirty role. She has to support herself and you get the feeling that this is just a stepping stone to something else. She’s in a bad spot now, but it will be better later on.”


Michael Taber and Mason Garcia

Hylton notes, “This play brings Shakespeare to life. It makes him a real person regardless of past exposure. This show is a great crowd pleaser.”

Shakespeare in Love opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 3, 2018 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 8/3, 8/4, 8/10, 8/11, 8/17, and 8/18, and matinees at 2 p.m. on 8/5, 8/12, and 8/19.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out even more local theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLSIL in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.


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