BATH, Maine — Offering music, romance, shipwrecks, mistaken identity and cross dressing, the Bath Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” plays out weekends through Aug. 4 in Bath’s Library Park.
“This is as good as it gets in terms of a Shakespearean comedy,” producer and company founder Stephen Legawiec said.
“Twelfth Night” is Shakespeare’s most accessible play, according to Legawiec, and features the character of Feste the Fool — played by Patrick Brady of Boston — to offer a view of the action from the outside.
But the producer has incorporated other methods to reach the audience, with contemporary costumes including sequined ball gowns, and tunes more recognizable to a modern audience (Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” is one notable example).
Legawiec is a theater veteran, with more than 25 years as an artistic director. In 1988 he founded the White River Theatre Festival in Vermont, and eight years later began the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles.
Three years ago, he moved with his family to Bowdoinham, and brought the Ziggurat Theatre with him, continuing its mission of “explor[ing] the relevance of myth and ritual to a contemporary audience.”
This year, following successful productions by the Ziggurat Theatre, Legawiec founded the Bath Shakespeare Festival.
The cast of “Twelfth Night” — including several Mainers like Brunswick High School student Lilly Victoria Gardiner — has rehearsed 10 hours a day for about three weeks. Much of the cast also appears in the fantasy “Salamanticus,” which opens at the Ziggurat Theatre on Friday.
The nonprofit Ziggurat Theatre — and the Bath Shakespeare Festival — have so far been funded through ticket sales, but Legawiec said he’s hopeful productions like “Twelfth Night” will appeal to a large audience and, with luck, attract major donors.
Cast members said the audience is sure to connect with the play’s portrayal of “the human experience.”
“Twelfth Night”’s strong message about life is clear and straightforward, said Tom Marion, a former Equity actor who plays troublemaking steward Malvolio.
“It’s a comedy with sadness … there’s a lot of variety of human emotion,” said Lily Ali-Oshatz of Los Angeles, who portrays Olivia. “There’s just every extreme and every nuance of the human experience … we still identify with all that emotion in life.”