Director’s Corner: Billy Hetherington for Twelfth Night




Director’s Corner: Billy Hetherington for Twelfth Night


Billy Hetherington for many years was the Artistic Director of the Willits Shakespeare Company. He has directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Taming Of The Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Annie Jr., Catch Me If You Can, Treasure Of The Gypsies, Alice In Wonderland, Crumpled Classics, The Hobbit, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great American Trailer Park and most recently at WCT, Peter Pan. He is currently in his 10th year working as the Theater Arts teacher at the Willits Charter School.


  1. How exciting is this, returning to Shakespeare for your first shot at directing a main stage production at WCT?
  2. It’s really exciting for me. It’s not only Shakespeare, but we also have original players from back in the day with the Shakespeare Company starring in this production, including Phaedra Swearengin and Christopher Martineau. It’s great to see them jump into this show with their talent, their understanding, and all their new life experience since we last worked together.


  1. Anyone else ion particular stand out?
  2. Tori Perreault also comes to this production having done work for the company. She was in the final show of The Tempest. I have to say that overall we have a great cast, with lots of local talent and some leading young actors from the local high schools. Also, there isn’t a better person to play Feste, the wandering minstrel and the clown, than Malakai Schindel. In our adaption to the nightclub, Malakai’s role is more like the lounge lizard type. He’s perfect.


  1. So you’ve directed Twelfth Night before?
  2. Yes, but for this show we’re using an adaptation. It’s set in the 1920s era. We’re going for that rip-roaring style, the faded glory. It’s still the same basic play, only it’s the 12th Nightclub owned by Mr. Duke, with his diva of the house Lady Olivia, who is in mourning for her father and brother. She’s dealing with this concept of being done with show biz, she can’t find her voice any more. Then she begins to fall in love with the young exuberant Viola, played by Tori–a woman dressed as a man. At that point Olivia begins to find her voice again. But of course the romantic action goes in other unexpected directions.


  1. We can certainly term this a romantic comedy?
  2. Absolutely. This is the Bard’s classic play with the cross-dressing and gender roll switches. And we’re playing it up. We’ve even made more changes. The rough sea captain is a female character. We’re just having loads of fun bending the genders. We’re bringing out the bawdiness of the original Shakespeare but still staying within the bounds of a family show.


  1. I understand you’re dedicating the show to Joe Hughes?
  2. Joe Hughes was our founder and mentor at the Shakespeare Company. He recently passed away, and his memorial was in San Francisco. He was a great mentor and he’s sorely missed.

Joe Hughes

  1. What kind of person was Joe to work with?
  2. Joe Hughes was amazing, so knowledgeable about the Shakespeare era and the plays. He always gave us a lot of space to explore, and was also there to educate us, give context to our efforts. Somewhere deep down I feel he was Shakespeare. The guy was just ageless. When he first moved to Willits, he stood on the corner of Commercial and Main, wearing a wig and French beret and big dark sunglasses. Somehow he wove himself into the community and he brought together all these people and created this mecca for Shakespeare. People rallied around him. My experience working with Joe and the Company saved me from making otherwise bad choices for my life.


  1. In Shakespeare’s original version of the play, there are a lot of intentional comedic mixups?
  2. It is classic Shakespeare in that sense, the tale where for instance there are twins confusing the action. One shows up, ignites a moment with another character, and the second twin comes along to confuse things and fall victim to it. As a subplot, Sir Tobey Belch, Fabian, and Sir Andrew Agnuecheek form a comedic core to the show. Their whole thing is to drink, have fun, and terrorize the stick-in-the-mud butler Malvolio. Sir Andrew even uses him as his personal ATM, borrowing money from the butler on promises we know he won’t keep.


  1. It sounds like a lot of shenanigans and general spoofery.
  2. That’s Shakespeare.


  1. So are the actors speaking in Shakespearean language?
  2. Yes, the lines are spoken mostly in classic Shakespeare, along with some nuggets of language woven in from the 1920s era. Those nuggets are like little clues and Easter eggs hidden along the way.


  1. There’s also a live band as part of the show?
  2. Craig Mountain and a couple other musicians have put together the music, and then we also have some cabaret and moveable sets. We’re weaving it all together into this wonderful movement piece.


  1. It should work well on the big stage?
  2. I think so. It’s my first time directing a show at Willits High School. I’m really excited about using the bigger space, and having the link between the theatre and the high school. My thing is, in that big space, we’re going for the grand spectacle. It’s what we’re aiming for, with the elaborate set changes, the music. It’s the rip-roaring 1920s style, in a nightclub, with the faded glory, and touches of the language from that era. It’s also traditional Shakespeare, with the gender-bending women dressed as men, bawdy moments of confused romance, and a tableau of colorful characters carrying on in true hilarious fashion.

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