An Interview with Erica Garraffa of Twelfth Night Coming Soon to St. Pete Shakes

  1. Is this your first production with St. Pete Shakes? Tell us how you feel about performing Shakespeare live in an outdoor setting.
    Not only is this my first show with St. Pete Shakes, it’s my first time ever doing Shakespeare! Definitely an item I’m happy to cross off my bucket list. 
    Performing outdoors certainly adds a level of complexity. You have to be so cognizant of your volume, and of course the weather can be unpredictable. But I’ve always loved the idea of Shakespeare in the park, especially free shows like this one. Anything that makes theatre more accessible to everyone is a plus in my book.
  2. Tell us about your role and experience performing with St. Pete Shakes?
    I play Sir Toby Belch, the drunk uncle, and instigator of a lot of the hijinks in the show. It’s been such a great experience bringing this character to life with the rest of the cast, we feed off of each other’s energy so much. Our director, Clareann, has essentially given us free reign to be as silly as possible, and everyone’s risen to the occasion. The whole production is wildly anachronistic, we inject a ton of modern music and props into it, so it’s impossible to take yourself too seriously. My sword is a rubber chicken, and that’s not even the most ridiculous weapon used – I won’t spoil more.
  3. What do you think audiences will take away from this production?
    That Shakespeare isn’t always this stuffy, high-brow thing that many people think it is. This show has some of the filthiest jokes I’ve ever said on stage. The sheer volume of dick jokes per scene is astounding [can I say that?]. Suffice it to say, people haven’t actually changed all that much in 400 years. 
  4. Do you have a favorite scene or moment in The Twelfth Night?
    There’s a scene where, just for fun, Sir Toby and his partner-in-crime, Miss Maria, manipulate two of the more cowardly characters into fighting a duel with one another, convincing each of them how “vicious and bloodthirsty” the other is until they’re both shaking in their boots. At first it was one of my more challenging scenes to really get down, but now it’s a fun opportunity to really ham it up.
  5. Can you tell Theatre Tampa Bay readers why you feel it’s important to perform Shakespeare’s plays today?
    For me personally, I feel that reading, hearing, and analyzing Shakespeare has made me a better writer. There are so many layers to his wordplay that light up different parts of the brain as you read and reread it. It’s made me think a lot harder when I write my own comedy sketches, about what I want to say and how to say it in a way that will pack the most punch. I’m sure other creators can relate to that.
    Also, kids, study your Shakespeare now, and you’ll be able to devastate your friends with insults they won’t understand until college.
  6. What about this production is unique or what can audiences expect to see at Twelfth Night?
    Our cast consists of all women and non-binary folks, which is an especially notable choice for a comedy whose whole premise revolves around gender-swapping. It’s basically a 1600’s rom-com, so naturally there’s a lot of dialogue that has the potential to come off incredibly sexist to modern audiences. It’s been really fun to take a lot of those lines and turn the meaning on its head just by giving it a different voice and perspective. It becomes very tongue-in-cheek, very self-aware.
  7. Tell us about Sir Toby and what you like and dislike about this character?
    I love Sir Toby. Even though he’s drunk most of the show, he’s smart and conniving enough to get anything he wants from pretty much anyone – except for his niece, who he is rightfully terrified of.

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