twelfth night john hughes style

Starring in Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program's production of 'Twelfth Night' are, clockwise from left, Josh Tregre, Simone Sharp, Justin Thompson, Elizabeth McDonald and Jackson Dammers.

What if John Hughes had made a Shakespeare play into one of his 1980s teen movies?

Theatre Baton Rouge will bring that possibility to life when its Young Actors Program stages William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" for three shows June 18-20 on the theater's Main Stage.

And though it will follow Shakespeare's farce of mistaken identity and romance, its characters will reflect Hughes' coming-of-age comedies and dramas that defined the 1980s.

"I wanted to do 'Twelfth Night' with a modern flair," said director Carole Moore. "I knew I needed to choose a time when cellphones weren't available. 'Twelfth Night' fits easily with what John Hughes was doing in his films in the 1980s."

And the timing couldn't have been more perfect: 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the Young Actors Program's first Shakespeare production, which was "Twelfth Night."

In staging the play, Moore studied Hughes' hits "Pretty in Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Sixteen Candles" and, of course, "The Breakfast Club."

Most of the cast members hadn't seen the Hughes films, so Moore had a group viewing of "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" before rehearsals began.

"Twelfth Night," written in about 1600, revolves around a set of twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck.

Viola disguises herself as a man, Cesario, and, in searching for her brother, falls in love with Duke Orsino, who is in love with Countess Olivia. But Olivia falls in love with Cesario, not knowing he is Viola in disguise.

Olivia, played by 15-year-old Elizabeth McDonald, is inspired by Claire, Molly Ringwald's character in "The Breakfast Club." McDonald, who will be a junior at the Dunham School in the fall, describes Olivia as spunky and witty.

"Once she figures out what she wants, she goes for it," she said.

And Olivia wants Cesario (really Viola), played by 16-year-old Simone Sharp, who will be a junior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in the fall.

Sharp said her character is a cross between Ringwald's Andie and John Cryer's Duckie characters from "Pretty in Pink." The character's double personae was a challenge for Sharp, because she has to switch between girl and boy characteristics.

"It's hard to handle, but I worked with Carole and some male friends to develop their mannerisms," she said.

Then there's Orsino, played by 17-year-old Justin Thompson. Orsino's inspiration is Emilio Estevez's athletic Andrew Clark in "The Breakfast Club." Thompson, who plans to attend Tulane University this fall, used his football playing experience to develop Orsino.

John Tregre, 17 and a recent graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, may be playing the most intriguing character of all, Olivia's jester servant Feste.

"Carole described Feste to me as a cross between Ferris Bueller and David Bowie," Tregre said. "I watched 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' and I watched some of David Bowie's music videos. This character is extravagant."

Feste also sings, and his music will mark the first time live music will be performed at Theatre Baton Rouge since the coronavirus lockdown a year ago. He will be singing hits from the 1980s, particularly those made popular by the Hughes movies.

"It's going to be different, and it's going to be something the audience can relate to," Moore said. "And it's just going to be a lot of fun."


'Twelfth Night'

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. June 18 and June 19; 2 p.m. June 20

WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge, 7155 Florida Blvd.

ADMISSION: $25.75-$30.75.

TICKETS/INFO: (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org.


Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com