Audiences will be in the middle of the action during this year’s Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ performances of Twelfth Night in Forest Park. New stage-side seating will place patrons amid the live music, romance and comedy in Shakespeare Glen. Executive director Rick Dildine recently gave LN a sneak peek into the much-anticipated 13th installment of the free annual event, running this spring from May 24 to June 16, with preview plays May 22 and 23.

We understand this is your directorial debut in St. Louis.

Yes, which is exciting and also nerve-racking—but it’s a good nervous. Preparations are going really well—sets are being built, costumes are being constructed and there is an incredibly talented cast that is making my job very easy.

Talk about why you chose Twelfth Night for this year’s show.

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, and it just so happens to be my favorite Shakespeare play. I wanted to do a comedy this season. And I wanted to get the artists excited and the community excited, as well. This play is an excellent opportunity for actors with characters they flock to, and an exciting design world for our designers because it takes place in a utopia that looks like nowhere or anywhere.

Will the show be classic Shakespeare-style or have a new spin?

We wanted to tell a very simple, classic story. It is inspired by the Romantic time period in the early 19th century. This story is really about love, so I wanted to frame the show in the time period where actors could really embrace that.

Tell us about this year’s cast.

Two actors are returning to the show—Viola will be played by Kimiye Corwin (Ophelia in the 2010 show, Hamlet), and Malvolio will be played by Anderson Matthews (Polonius in Hamlet).

What surprises can audiences look forward to this year?

For the first time, we’ll use all live music in the park. We have collaborated with local St. Louis band Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra. They wrote the music for the show, and the actors will play it live.

What will be in store for patrons prior to the shows?

Every night from 6 to 8 p.m. will be the Green Show. We will have performers, jugglers and musicians who roam the grounds performing. And we will do a 20-minute version of the play for kids.

Describe the atmosphere backstage during the shows.

It takes so many people to put on the festival. For every one person you see onstage, there are three to four others behind the scenes working. During the course of the festival, there are at least 80 people on the payroll.

Talk about how these are one-of-a-kind performances.

In addition to having live music for the first time, there also is going to be a special groundlings section, where the audience can sit inside the set. It was very inspired by the Globe Theatre in London. Audiences will be feet from the action.

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