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Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA

Avant Bard presents the world premiere of ILLYRIA, or What You Will, freely adapted from Twelfth Night by Jonelle Walker and Mitchell Hébert, and directed by Mitchell Hébert.

ILLYRIA reimagines Shakespeare's comedy of mixed-signal love as a bohemian cabaret set in an underground queer club in early 1980s Manhattan, where identity, sex, and gender are what you will-and everyone finds freedom to be who they truly are.

"In Illyria, everybody gets to tell their story unobstructed," said Mitchell Hébert. "All the characters are explored fully and completely. That includes a trans character, gay men, a straight man (who may or may not be bisexual), a pansexual woman, and a drag queen and two women performing masculinity.

"I look for actors with big hearts, big talent, and generosity, so we can build a theatrical community. And that's what has happened.

"I want the audience to be moved. I want their hearts to open up, whether they're straight, gay, queer, non-binary, gender-nonconforming, whatever. Wherever they live, whoever they live with, I want them to feel the warmth of love that washes over them in Illyria and in some way bring that into their lives.

"I don't want to presume a response. But I do hope that they fall in love with these people and Take That love out into the world. Because I have, we all have. We love them. We really do."

A cast of eleven will bring to life Illyria's characters, based loosely on Shakespeare's but reconceived by Walker and Hébert to tease out truths for today: Frank Britton (Feste), Katie Gallagher (Toby), Emma Loughran Hébert (Maria), Christopher Henley (Malvolio), Miss Kitty LeLynx(Fabian), Adam Lemos (Antonio), Montana Monardes (Sebastian), Jenna Rossman (Andrew), Matthew Sparacino (Orsino), Dani Stoller(Olivia), and Ezra Tozian (Viola/Cesario).

Illyria will feature the driving beats and dingy glamor of the post-disco era, with music by Composer/Sound Designer Aaron Bliden. The creative team also includes Set Designer Jos. B. Musumeci Jr., Costume Designer Kristen P Ahern, Lighting Designer John D. Alexander, Choreographer Emma Loughran Hébert, and Intimacy Director/Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer Claudia Rosales Waters.

"All of us at Avant Bard are incredibly excited about the fresh take on a classic that Jonelle Walker and Mitchell Hébert have created," said Artistic and Executive Director Tom Prewitt. "Jonelle's TAME., a feminist revisioning of The Taming of the Shrew, opened our season two years ago and went on to garner a Helen Hayes nomination. Mitch, recipient of Helen Hayes Awards for both acting and directing, teaches at the University of Maryland, and half the Illyria cast and creative team are young talents he worked with there. The energy in Club Illyria is going to rock the house."

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Photo Credit: C. Stanley Photography

high res photos

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Frank Britton (Feste)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Miss Kitty LeLynx (Fabian)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Dani Stoller (Olivia)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Christopher Henley (Malvolio), Dani Stoller (Olivia)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Montana Monardes (Sebastian), Adam Lemos (Antonio)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Jenna Rossman (Andrew), Katie Gallagher (Toby), Emilie Loughran Hebert (Maria)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Matthew Sparacino (Orsino)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Matthew Sparacino (Orsino), Ezra Tozian (Cesario)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Dani Stoller (Olivia), Ezra Tozian (Cesario)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Frank Britton (Feste)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Miss Kitty LeLynx (Fabian)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Christopher Henley (Malvolio). (Background:) Katie Gallagher (Toby), Emilie Loughran Hebert (Maria), Jenna Rossman (Andrew)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Montana Monardes (Sebastian), Adam Lemos (Antonio)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Adam Lemos (Antonio), Montana Monardes (Sebastian)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Ezra Tolzian (Cesario), Dani Stoller (Olivia)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Christopher Henley (Malvolio)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Dani Stoller (Olivia). (Background:) Katie Gallagher (Toby), Emilie Loughran Hebert (Maria)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Frank Britton (Feste), Ezra Tolzian (Cesario)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Ezra Tolzian (Cesario), Jenna Rossman (Andrew)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Dani Stoller (Olivia), Ezra Tolzian (Cesario). (Behind:) Matthew Sparacino (Orsino)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Ezra Tolzian (Cesario), Montana Monardes (Sebastian)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA
Emilie Loughran Hebert (Maria), Christopher Henley (Malvolio)

Photo Flash: First Look at Avant Bard's ILLYRIA


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