Mannequin Monday – What Country, Friends, Is This?

“An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin than these two creatures.” The story of twin siblings drapes our bare mannequin this week. A classic romantic comedy: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

And from my own writing, I offer an excerpt from my novel Apart, with references to Twelfth Night.

This Week’s Story

I re-read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night this week. Viola’s line, “What country, friends, is this?” came to mind early in the week. Not sure if it was prompted by current politics, or if it simply popped into my mind.

You remember the play, right? A storm at sea separates a twin man and woman. Each thinks the other is lost at sea. Viola, the sister, disguises herself as a man. Twists and turns ensue, until they are reunited at the end.

The trials of twin siblings always make for a perennial favorite story line. You can read the play here.

My Current Writing

Reading Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night reminded me of this chapter from my book Apart. I am about to re-publish the book with a new cover and a new title, A Twin Long Gone. The refresh will make it clearer to readers what the book is all about. I hope.

In the story, actor Kelsey Graf is helping the main character, Gabe Wray, in creating a video for YouTube that may help him find his long-lost twin sister. They are trying to re-create what his sister might have been involved in when she went missing.

Chapter 14 “What country, friends, is this?”

The following morning the three met at a small black box theater in North Hollywood. Turo had found that it was available for a few hours on a weekday morning. He had told Cabe, “Since Gail had a strong interest in acting, taping Kelsey in this setting may trigger a memory with one of our potential viewers. I’ll edit it into the video after we set up the idea of Gail being an actor.”

The rental was costing Cabe two hundred dollars, mostly because the theater provided a tech to run the lights during the taping. 

Turo set the camera tripod in the back row of the theater.

“Kelsey, I want you to do a few lines from Twelfth Night. It’s public domain, so we don’t need to worry about copyright issues. And our viewers may be more familiar with that than some contemporary plays.” 

They had been in luck when Turo rented the theater. A production company had just finished its run of As You Like It, and the costumes and wigs were still in the dressing rooms. Kelsey put on a Renaissance woman’s outfit.

The lights came up on Kelsey. “Kelsey, you know these scenes. Let’s do Viola’s lines first, then a few of Cesario’s lines. I have the camera set on a medium shot, so try not to move around too much.”

“Got it.”

Cabe sat to the side of the camera, where he could see both Turo and the stage.

Turo cued Kelsey.

Kelsey, as Viola, at the play’s beginning, washed ashore following her shipwreck, speaks:

VIOLA

What country, friends, is this?

Kelsey paused. Turo would insert a voiceover here, explaining that she is talking to the ship’s captain, who also survived the shipwreck.

VIOLA

There is a fair behavior in thee, captain;

And though that nature with a beauteous wall

Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee

I will believe thou hast a mind that suits

With this thy fair and outward character.

I prithee, and I’ll pay thee bounteously,

Conceal me what I am, and be my aid

For such disguise as haply shall become

The form of my intent. I’ll serve this duke:

Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him:

It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing

And speak to him in many sorts of music

That will allow me very worth his service.

What else may hap to time I will commit;

Only shape thou thy silence to my wit.

“Cut,” Turo called out. “That works. Kelsey, put on Cesario’s outfit and let’s do a few more lines.”

Ten minutes later Kelsey came back out on stage dressed as Cesario. She set herself stage right. 

Turo said, “There’ll be another voiceover here, explaining that Viola speaks to Antonio.” He cued her again.

VIOLA

… Nor know I you by voice or any feature:

I hate ingratitude more in a man

Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,

Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption

Inhabits our frail blood.

“Good,” Turo called out. “Now the lines from Act V. I’ll read Antonio’s lines on the voiceover.”

ANTONIO 

(says of Viola and Sebastian)

How have you made division of yourself?

An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin

Than these two creatures. Which is Sebastian?

VIOLA 

(to her brother Sebastian)

If nothing lets to make us happy both

But this my masculine usurp’d attire,

Do not embrace me till each circumstance

Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump

That I am Viola: which to confirm,

I’ll bring you to a captain in this town,

Where lie my maiden weeds; by whose gentle help

I was preserved to serve this noble count.

All the occurrence of my fortune since

Hath been between this lady and this lord.

“Cut,” Turo said. “That’s good. Let’s wrap it up.”

When Kelsey left the stage, Cabe turned to Turo. “Will this really help?”

“The truth? It’s a crapshoot, man. But we have to try. All of this touches on Gail’s life somehow.”

“What country, friends, is this?”

The following morning the three met at a small black box theater in North Hollywood. Turo had found that it was available for a few hours on a weekday morning. He had told Cabe, “Since Gail had a strong interest in acting, taping Kelsey in this setting may trigger a memory with one of our potential viewers. I’ll edit it into the video after we set up the idea of Gail being an actor.”

The rental was costing Cabe two hundred dollars, mostly because the theater provided a tech to run the lights during the taping. 

Turo set the camera tripod in the back row of the theater.

“Kelsey, I want you to do a few lines from Twelfth Night. It’s public domain, so we don’t need to worry about copyright issues. And our viewers may be more familiar with that than some contemporary plays.” 

They had been in luck when Turo rented the theater. A production company had just finished its run of As You Like It, and the costumes and wigs were still in the dressing rooms. Kelsey put on a Renaissance woman’s outfit.

The lights came up on Kelsey. “Kelsey, you know these scenes. Let’s do Viola’s lines first, then a few of Cesario’s lines. I have the camera set on a medium shot, so try not to move around too much.”

“Got it.”

Cabe sat to the side of the camera, where he could see both Turo and the stage.

Turo cued Kelsey.

Kelsey, as Viola, at the play’s beginning, washed ashore following her shipwreck, speaks:

VIOLA

What country, friends, is this?

Kelsey paused. Turo would insert a voiceover here, explaining that she is talking to the ship’s captain, who also survived the shipwreck.

VIOLA

There is a fair behavior in thee, captain;

And though that nature with a beauteous wall

Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee

I will believe thou hast a mind that suits

With this thy fair and outward character.

I prithee, and I’ll pay thee bounteously,

Conceal me what I am, and be my aid

For such disguise as haply shall become

The form of my intent. I’ll serve this duke:

Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him:

It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing

And speak to him in many sorts of music

That will allow me very worth his service.

What else may hap to time I will commit;

Only shape thou thy silence to my wit.

“Cut,” Turo called out. “That works. Kelsey, put on Cesario’s outfit and let’s do a few more lines.”

Ten minutes later Kelsey came back out on stage dressed as Cesario. She set herself stage right. 

Turo said, “There’ll be another voiceover here, explaining that Viola speaks to Antonio.” He cued her again.

VIOLA

… Nor know I you by voice or any feature:

I hate ingratitude more in a man

Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,

Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption

Inhabits our frail blood.

“Good,” Turo called out. “Now the lines from Act V. I’ll read Antonio’s lines on the voiceover.”

ANTONIO 

(says of Viola and Sebastian)

How have you made division of yourself?

An apple, cleft in two…

An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin

Than these two creatures. Which is Sebastian?

VIOLA 

(to her brother Sebastian)

If nothing lets to make us happy both

But this my masculine usurp’d attire,

Do not embrace me till each circumstance

Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump

That I am Viola: which to confirm,

I’ll bring you to a captain in this town,

Where lie my maiden weeds; by whose gentle help

I was preserved to serve this noble count.

All the occurrence of my fortune since

Hath been between this lady and this lord.

“Cut,” Turo said. “That’s good. Let’s wrap it up.”

When Kelsey left the stage, Cabe turned to Turo. “Will this really help?”

“The truth? It’s a crapshoot, man. But we have to try. All of this touches on Gail’s life somehow.”

Cabe leaned back and stared up at the dark ceiling. Where the hell is this going?

***