Shipwrecked twins off the coast of Illyria set this tale of mistaken identity and unlikely love into relentless motion. Alone in the world, Viola disguises herself as a boy and falls hopelessly in love with the Duke she serves, while he is enamored of the Countess Olivia–whose adoring gaze lands instead upon the Duke’s new page. Add to the mix a brooding steward in yellow stockings named Malvolio and the saucy Sir Toby, and the stage is set for Shakespeare’s most perfect comedy.
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes intermission)
Twelfth Night is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation is underwriter for the services of guest director Josie Rourke and guest designer Lucy Osborne on Twelfth Night.
Original Music for Twelfth Night is underwritten by the Gayle and Glenn R. Tilles Music Fund.
Viola and her twin, Sebastian, are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria, where Viola is washed ashore alone. Disguised as a young male page, "Cesario" enters the service of Count Orsino, with whom she falls secretly in love. Orsino is captivated by the Countess Olivia, who wants nothing to do with Orsino or any other man throughout her seven years of mourning—until she sees the young page, sent to woo her on Orsino's behalf. Olivia's household, under the rigid control of her moralistic steward Malvolio, is busy subverting Malvolio's rule and plotting their revenge upon him: a forged letter from Olivia, pronouncing her love for him. Malvolio swallows the bait, courting his bewildered mistress as his adversaries look on in delight. Viola's twin arrives in Illyria, where he is mistaken for "Cesario" and consents to Olivia's proposal of marriage. Almost all is set aright when Viola and Sebastian finally set eyes on one another, except for Malvolio, who vows revenge.
– Contributed by the CST Education Department
A Scholar's Perspective by Wendy Doniger
Wendy Doniger considers ideas of love amid gender confusion and sexual ambiguity.
A Scholar's Perspective by Clark Hulse
Clark Hulse examines how the play reconciles unruly desires with the rules of society.
Open Door: Audience Enrichment Programs
CST offers pre- or post-show programs with members of the cast or scholars: PreAmbles, Pub Cast Calls and Talk Backs.
Half-hour pre-show lectures are offered on selected weekend dates. Listen to a scholar give an overview of important scholarship and discuss some of the production choices.
Recorded Excerpts from Talk Back Discussions
Post-show discussions with the cast are held after Wednesday and student matinees. Recordings are updated throughout the run of the production.
Shakespeare borrowed from numerous sources as he imagined Twelfth Night—including some of his own earlier plays.
Twelfth Night in Historical Context
Elizabethan unease about class mobility, religious nonconformists and royal accession threatened social stability and informed the writing of Shakespeare’s last comedy.
From the earliest records of performances, the character of Malvolio stole the show, but the quality of the laughter he provoked has changed over the play’s 400-year history.
Scholars, Authors and Artists on Twelfth Night
Themes of transformation, desire and the role of women, as well as the nature of comedy, have occupied artists and critics including Charles Lamb, Harold Bloom and Marjorie Garber.
A portal to the world of Shakespeare, these selected internet sites lead further into the exploration of Shakespeare in performance, his life and times, the original texts, and much more.
See who’s who among the actors.
The Creative Team
See who’s who on the creative team—the director, designers and other artists who contribute to the creation of the world of the play.
A Conversation with Director Josie Rourke
Director Josie Rourke discusses her ideas about Twelfth Night and explains her approach to Shakespeare’s work.
A Conversation with Designer Lucy Osborne
Scenic and Costume Designer Lucy Osborne, who has worked closely with Josie Rourke on a number of projects, reflects on their process.
A Designer’s Process
Designer Lucy Osborne periodically posts about the transformation of her designs ideas into the sets and costumes for Twelfth Night.
View the Costume Designs
See some of Costume Designer Lucy Osborne’s renderings for Twelfth Night and read her thoughts about the designs.
A Conversation with Actor Larry Yando
Larry Yando, who will play Malvolio in Twelfth Night, has played Timon, Henry IV, and, most recently, Cymbeline at CST. He talks about his work as an actor and his love of Shakespeare.
The Process So Far
Guest Director Josie Rourke joins a growing list of distinguished international artists whose work has been featured at CST.