Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night

At Sontag Greek Theatre on the campus of Pomona College in Claremont

By: Jul. 17, 2021

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night Ophelia's Jump Productions' Midsummer Shakespeare Festival is back this year, presenting Shakespeare's gender-bending, romantic comedy Twelfth Night in an outdoor setting at Sontag Greek Theatre, on the beautiful campus of Pomona College in Claremont. The story begins during a terrible storm at sea, in which twin brother and sister, Sebastian and Viola, are shipwrecked and separated. Viola believes that her brother is dead and with the help of the ship's captain, disguises herself as Cesario, a young man, so she can get a job as a page for the Duke Orsino. And of course, before long, Viola has fallen madly in love with Orsino. But Shakespeare's romantic comedies are never that simple!

You see, Duke Orsino is pursuing Countess Olivia who does not return his affections Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night - and then much to Viola's distress, takes quite a liking to young Cesario, who of course is really Viola in disguise! (Janette Valenzo, Janelle Kester pictured) Meanwhile, Malvolio, the Countess Olivia's obnoxious assistant, is getting on everyone's nerves, while Olivia's uncle Toby conspires with her servants Maria and Feste to make Malvolio think the Countess is in love with him. Confused yet? Just wait - when Sebastian finally shows up, things get really interesting as Olivia thinks he's Cesario and asks him to marry her. What else could possibly go wrong? Or perhaps right?

Director Caitlin Lopez, the Associate Artistic Director of Ophelia's Jump Productions (OJP) who also serves as Improv Director for the company elaborates, "Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola who has washed up on the shores of the vibrant and uninhibited Illyria after a shipwreck. In this modern queer fairytale, she and a cast of colorful characters all must discover what it means to truly love and embrace their heart's desires."

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night I decided to speak with Caitlin about both her directing and appearing in the production, as well as her background with the history of OJP.

(Shari): Thank you for speaking with me as I know you must be terribly busy with last-minute preparations to open Twelfth Night in just a few days. What drew you to want to present and direct this particular play?

(Caitlin): Twelfth Night has always been a favorite of mine, as it is for many of us theatre nerds. There's something very relatable to the play's overall message that love causes pain, but that pain can breed happiness and hilarity. It speaks to the part of us that will always be teenage romantics with so many feelings we could burst. We need to be reminded of that perfect intermingled chaos of anguish and joy. There is no chill in this play.

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night

(Shari): The cast includes Janelle Kester, Sam Forbes, Jenny Lockwood, Marc Antonio Pritchett, Holly Scott, Ryan Herrera, Ian Hartidge, Janette Valenzo, Scott Robinson, and yourself! Do you find it difficult to direct yourself? And in general, which do you prefer - directing or acting?

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night (Caitlin): Yes! I do! It has certainly been a challenge but I am very lucky to have had the support of my cast and our artistic director. As for my preference, I enjoy both although I tend to direct more often these days. Most of my acting actually comes in the form of unscripted work as a longform narrative improviser, so it's been nice to revisit the written page. (photo: Caitlin Lopez, Holly Scott)

(Shari): Tell me your personal take on the gender confusion and cross-dressing in the show, especially since you have cast women in what are traditionally male roles, including yourself as Olivia's uncle Toby.

(Caitlin): We definitely have mixed things up a bit but it doesn't stray from the page in terms of pronouns too much. I'm playing Toby as a cisgendered butch lesbian, and Jenny Lockwood is playing Malvolio - but in drag as a male character. Even Fabian (played by Ian Hartdige, pictured) dresses in a very gender fluid and playful manner, Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night which is all meant to show the joy of being free in expression of self. We have sort of this central metaphor in this production of Illyria being a magical place where repression disintegrates. The traditional trope of Viola donning "male" garb when adapting this play for a modern setting doesn't quite hold the same weight as it may have even 20 years ago. Our lines are thankfully blurring with regards to both gender expression and sexuality, but we still can get so hung up on the traditions of the gender binary as fact rather than merely cultural choice. We just want everybody to love who they love and be who they want to be - which is what I think this play essentially pushes for.

(Shari): OJP presented Twelfth Night in 2015. How is this production going to differ from that one?

(Caitlin): Well, this one didn't get rained out! We had a series of flash rainstorms during a drought season which saw us cancelling a week's worth of performances, so if anyone reading this could knock on wood that would be great! Other than acts of nature, that last time we did Twelfth Night it was set during 1920 and done a bit more traditionally. This time we're in a modern day Illyria turned Queer fairytale!

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night (Shari): In 2014, Ophelia's Jump founded the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival which has become a summer tradition and brings visitors from Southern California and several states to Claremont each July. What would you like to share about how the event has grown over the years? (pictured: Marc Antonio Pritchett as Orsino)

(Caitlin): We've been extremely lucky to have such a wonderful partnership with Pomona College that's allowed us to continue to put on this wonderful festival. As a company that works out of a blackbox studio space the rest of the year, it's been an amazing learning curve and opportunity to essentially create a modern theatrical space within an outstanding traditional Greek theatre. We've been able not to just grow our audiences, but also grown our summer crew which has been amazing. Those first few years it was all hands on deck with the cast themselves picking up tools to build. Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night And although many of us still wear very many hats, it's been lovely to be able to have many hands make more efficient work. Theatre is a labor of love, and outdoor theatre doubly so. (pictured: Jenny Lockwood, Janelle Kester)

(Shari): Nightly before each performance at 8pm, the venue will be open early to accommodate picnickers, with booths featuring artists and artisanal vendors. There will also be a nightly Green Show (a pre-show entertainment), with concessions including craft beer, wine and snacks will be available. Is this a family-friendly addition to the show?

(Caitlin): Picnicking is certainly encouraged every night as we do have Green Shows on before every single performance. However, the true festival experience with booths and vendors is only on Saturdays and Sundays. It features a lot of fun for the whole family including face painting, a Shakespearean insult booth, and a rousing game of "Pin the Tale on the Bard."

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night All of the shows are family friendly, as long as you remember Shakespeare liked a good bawdy innuendo just as much as he liked rhyming couplets - which is a lot! (pictured: Sam Forbes, Caitlin Lopez)

(Shari): Are the artists and artisanal vendors also members of Ophelia's Jump Productions?

(Caitlin): Each summer Ophelia's Jump provides free booth space for community non-profits who want to participate in the Shakespeare Festival pre-show picnic and events. So while they are not members of Ophelia's Jump Productions, I'd like to think we're all members of the amazing community that is Claremont, Upland, and our little corner of the Inland Empire.

(Shari): Tell me a bit about the Dinner As You Like It offering.

(Caitlin): Dinner As You Like It is our fabulous partnership with some local restaurants who have put together some package meals perfect for picnicking under the stars. You just call ahead to order and they'll be ready to pick up and take with you to your night at the theatre!

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night (Shari): With OJP putting on an average of 7 productions a year prior to the pandemic, how has the group been staying creative during the past year's shutdown of live performances? (pictured: Ryan Herrera, Marc Antonio Pritchett)

(Caitlin): We produced a couple of live-streamed new works online: A Poison Squad of Whispering Women by Kelly Mcburnette-Andronicos and A Wilderness of Monkeys by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei. We also rounded out the year with a holiday adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life online. Needless to say, as much as we loved working on those shows, we're excited to be able to get back into doing live and in person theatre. With a completely vaccinated cast and crew, we've been so happy to all be able to work together again. Fingers crossed that we'll be able to move back into our studio for the rest of the season!

(Shari): Anything else you would like to share about either yourself, OJP or the production?

(Caitlin): This production is meant to be a fun return to live theatre for ourselves and our audiences. This past year has reminded us that there really is no good substitute for sharing spaces with one another and sharing our emotions as well. I hope to see you at the Festival!

Interview: Director Caitlin Lopez on Ophelia's Jump Productions' Twelfth Night Twelfth Night, the classic gender-bending romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, is being presented by Ophelia's Jump Productions, directed by Caitlin Lopez and co-produced by Janell and Randall Lewis, Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, Pomona College and Discover Claremont. Performances take place outdoors at the Sontag Greek Theatre on the campus of Pomona College, Claremont, CA 91711, from July 15- July 25, 2021 on Thursdays through Sundays at 8:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 or $20 for children under 10, available by calling (909) 734-6565 or online at http://opheliasjump.org Covid safety protocols current on opening date will be observed.

Production photo credit: Randy Lopez

Ophelia's Jump is a non-profit regional theatre company based in Claremont, performing in Claremont and Upland. Founded in 2012 by women and queer artists and educators who believe that the purpose of theatre is to create unending conversations, spark imagination, incite conscience, and elicit a visceral response, OJP aims to invigorate the creativity and intellect of our community by working with local and regional artists to tell compelling stories and educate new generations of theatre lovers. OJP believes in centering the stories of diverse voices and the work of diverse artists. OJP believes that presenting under-represented points of view promotes empathy between people of differing backgrounds, engenders critical thinking, and encourages creative problem-solving. We want to cultivate our community's cultural landscape by opening meaningful access to theatre for all by removing or reducing socio-economic, physical, and language barriers. OJP is a 501c3 non-profit organization, and has created the Theatre for Good Program in which OJP partners with community organizations to help raise funds for a variety of important causes. OJP's Artistic Director is Beatrice Casagran, and Managing Director is Randy Lopez.

The Sontag Greek Theatre, located at the western edge of The Wash on Pomona College's campus, was built in 1910 and renovated in 1997, when it was renamed in honor of Professor of Philosophy Frederick Sontag, who was a member of Pomona's faculty for 57 years, and his wife Carol. The site had long been a location for both casual student events and more formal performances and ceremonies. Then in 1910, the senior class gifted $2,500 to build a permanent theatre, which included several hundred concrete seats and bleachers. The Amphitheatre is set amidst a grove of old oaks and surrounded by lawns, affording an ideal space for the festival.

Ready to take a family vacation locally? Each summer Claremont hotels offer getaway packages featuring lodging, dinner and tickets to the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival. This summer will be especially festive as the city and Festival both reopen. For information about local activities and hotel packages in Claremont, visit discoverclaremont.com.



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