The Public Theater has announced that it will once again mount its Mobile Unit this spring, bringing Shakespeare to underserved communities in New York. Saheem Ali will direct the bard’s classic comedy, Twelfth Night, set to the rhythms of house, Cuban, and ‘90s beats; and for the first time, the sit-down run at the Public Theater, as well as the touring production, will be free.
The cast of Twelfth Night will be made up of Stephen S. Chacon (Sebastian), Michael Bradley Cohen (Orsino, Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Danaya Esperanza (Viola), Ceci Fernandez (Olivia), Christopher Ryan Grant (Sir Toby Belch), Donnetta Lavinia Grays (Feste), Aneesh Sheth (Maria), David Ryan Smith (Malvolio), and Michael Thurber (Antonio).
The production celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Mobile Unit. The three-week tour of correctional facilities, homeless shelters, community centers, and more will kick off March 30 and continue through April 22. The sit-down run at the Public Theater will play April 24–May 14 in the LuEsther Theater.
“Twelfth Night is a perfect production to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Mobile Unit. We hope that making our run at The Public free is just the beginning of expanding the legacy of Free Shakespeare in the Park,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis in a press statement. “Saheem Ali has been a friend and colleague for years, and I’m delighted to welcome him to his first show at The Public.”
“The Mobile Unit continues to exemplify The Public's commitment to radical inclusivity, both on stage and in our audiences,” said Director of Special Artistic Projects Stephanie Ybarra. “I'm grateful to Saheem and the marvelous constellation of collaborators he has assembled for telling this essential story right now.”
Here is how the Public outlines Ali’s production of Twelfth Night: “When a young shipwrecked immigrant named Viola takes a chance on the ’wet foot, dry foot’ policy of the mid-‘90s and washes up amidst the shore of glitzy Illyria, Florida, she finds herself a stranger in a fabulously strange new land. Thinking her twin brother has drowned, Viola throws herself into a new gig as assistant to Orsino, a wealthy Floridian with a serious case of love sickness for a wealthy lady, Olivia. Having disguised herself as a boy to become Orsino’s right hand man, Viola (now Cesario) is tasked with delivering his adoring valentines. But as Viola woos in her boss’s name, she falls head over spiky heels for the man himself, while Olivia turns her affections to the intriguing young messenger boy, Cesario (also Viola). Set to the rhythms of house, Cuban and ‘90s beats, Saheem Ali directs this colorful comedy about the power of new people and new experiences that throw the world into beautiful disarray, and open hearts and minds to the possibility of love.”
The Mobile Unit production will feature scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Dede Ayite, music composition by Michael Thurber, movement direction by Tanya Birl, and fight direction by Lisa Kopitsky.
See below for a list of tour stops for Twelfth Night:
New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Manhattan (March 30)
Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, Manhattan (March 31)
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House/Women’s Mental Health Shelter at the Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan (April 3)
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Manhattan (April 4)
Queensboro Correctional Facility, Queens (April 5)
DreamYard Arts Project, Bronx (April 6)
Brownsville Recreation Center, Brooklyn (April 7)
Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center, Bronx (April 8)
Rikers Island Correction Facility, Rikers Island (April 10 and 11)
Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn (April 13 and 14)
Taconic Correctional Facility, Westchester (April 18)
St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan (April 21)
Faber Park Field House, Staten Island (April 22)
For more information, visit Publictheater.org.