It's no midsummer night's dream: Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" is coming to Loudoun County this summer in conjunction with an affiliate of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.
Diana Denley, a Washington native who is the artistic director of Shakespeare Globe Centre Australia in Sydney, was in Loudoun last weekend to hold auditions for the outdoors version of the romantic comedy she plans to direct in Purcellville's Franklin Park on Aug. 25 through 29.
Fifty-eight people auditioned for the play's 14 roles, mostly working actors from the Washington area. Tim Jon, news director of WAGE Radio, was the only Loudoun actor chosen. He was cast in two roles: the captain and the priest.
"It's like a high school football coach getting to play for the Redskins for a season," said Jon, who is also artistic director of Not Just Shakespeare, an amateur theater troupe. "I'm going to jump at the chance."
Denley's center is part of an international theater network connected with London's Globe Theatre, a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse where Shakespeare's plays were first performed in Elizabethan England.
Several years ago, Denley met Jeffrey Stern, manager of the Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center, and discussed working together after a 300-seat barn theater was completed at the park. The theater is still being built, but they decided to go ahead with a performance this summer at the Franklin Park event field, near the theater construction site.
"There's just something about Shakespeare outdoors," said Stern, whose center is producing the show. "With a picnic, and having your family around you and the sunset, it's a singular experience."
The production will be modeled on one that could have taken place in Shakespeare's time, Stern said. The sparse set will include a wooden floor, back wall and balcony. Smaller, understated pieces will allow the characters and the script to take center stage.
"Having a traditional Shakespearian show delivered in a traditional Shakespearian fashion is going to be unique to see," Stern said. He said he thinks that the energy of the local audience combined with Denley's artistic sensibility and a strong cast will make for a memorable performance.
"They're not just bringing their own show over here and plopping it in Loudoun County," he said.
Denley said she hopes the performance will attract a diverse audience.
" 'Twelfth Night' is such a beautiful comedy, and it seemed like a wonderful up-tempo Shakespeare to kick off this project," said Denley, who will stay in Leesburg this summer at a home belonging to her family. "We need to have a bit of our own arts out here, so people don't have to go into Washington."
This summer, a flurry of cultural activity is coming to Loudoun, including the Loudoun Summer Music Fest of weekly concerts at the Belmont Country Club in Ashburn and the free Acoustic on the Green performances in Leesburg on Saturday evenings.
"Twelfth Night" lead actress Anna Keppe, 27, said performing Elizabethan comedy in the Virginia countryside will be a highlight of the show for her.
Keppe received a master's degree a year ago from the Shakespeare Theatre's academy for classical acting at George Washington University. She won the role of Viola with her rendition of the famed "I left no ring with her" monologue by the shipwrecked young woman who disguises herself as a man and ends up courting her new master's love interest on his behalf.
Complications ensue when cross-dressing Viola begins to fall for her master, and his intended conquest becomes interested in her.
"It's one of my favorite plays," said Keppe, who will be an acting coach with the Washington National Opera during its forthcoming season.
"It's about finding who you are, finding your true love and finding what it means to love."