UNCA live theater returns with “Twelfth Night”


Olivia Kane

Mikayla Wilson and Ben Gibson review stage notes.

Olivia Kane, [email protected], Contributor

The auditorium theater lighting fades and chatter from the stirring audience turns from whispers to silence as if the whole room is holding a collective breath. From the dark, a spotlight grows and glows, illuminating the stage and players upon it. The show has begun. 

“Oh, I’m terrified,” said Nicholas Lock, part of the cast of the spring production of “Twelfth Night” at UNCA. “Right before I’m walking on to stage I’m backstage jumping up and down and trying to shake it out because it’s always intense just seeing all the eyes on you.”

Lock plays Sebastian, one of the lead characters in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Lock began performing in live productions almost 20 years ago. He prefers dramatic roles, but is excited to be performing a comedy this season. 

“One of the really fun things about Shakespeare, even the comedies have these hints of this realness or sadness to them because they even make jokes out of the things that are terrible,” he said. 

“Twelfth Night” tells the comedic and romantic tale of twin siblings who, after being shipwrecked and separated, take on new identities. Several plots interweave through the story and as the production’s stage manager, Mikayla Wilson, said, hijinks ensue.

Ella Schneider, a sophomore studying environmental science and drama, plays Countess Olivia, one of the twin’s love interests.

“I love Shakespeare. It just feels different, it builds a community,” Schneider said. “You have to dive deeper into it so you get to know each other a lot more.”

Originally from the Washington area, Schneider developed a love of theater at a young age. She joined drama productions as a young girl as a way to build her confidence. Schneider said she would love to continue performing even after graduating.

“We’re creating something beautiful. We’re creating art and it’s what we love to do with our lives,” she said.

“Shakespeare is meant to be seen,” Wilson, the production’s stage manager said. 

Wilson, an Asheville native, graduated from UNCA last year and returned to work with the drama department.

“It’s been very nice to be in a rehearsal space again because I think that was something I’ve been missing a lot during the pandemic, just being able to exist in the same room with people,” Wilson said.

Wilson said in the wake of the pandemic, the drama department works hard to ensure the transition back to live theater is smooth for everyone involved, including cast, crew and audience. 

“The reason why theater is coming back with such a boom is you’re kind of tired of watching people on a screen, you’ve seen every TV show,” the stage manager said. “Getting to see another person on stage telling you a story is something people have really missed.” 

Wilson said she and her team welcome students of all backgrounds to join the theater. The 4 leads of the show all come from different departments, majors and backgrounds.

“My favorite part of theater is working with the cast. Just having all these people with different experiences and perspectives,” Lock said. “You’re able to listen to and draw from them.”  

Director Kirsten Leigh Daniel leads the cast in warm up exercises in rehearsal.
(Olivia Kane )


To accommodate complex schedules and prevent burnout in students, Wilson said the department consciously takes efforts to be intentional with students’ time and creating more flexible rehearsals. 

“We’ve been having a lot more conversations in the department, which I’ve appreciated about why are we pushing these students to not be able to be anything but a theater student,” Wilson said.

The lovesick Duke Orsino, played by David Gingold, a junior studying political science, opens the show as the first character on stage. This will be Gingold’s first performance in five years and his first time performing Shakespeare. 

“I feel at home on stage,” said the Connecticut native. “It’s exhilarating. It’s nerve-racking too, but there’s not really a fear there. I get really present right before a performance.”

Gingold said he enjoys taking on the challenge of Shakespeare and working through the story with his fellow cast members.

“It’s not the language itself, but it’s that every line, everything is intentional and it’s all a puzzle,” Gingold said. “For me, it’s really just unraveling the whole thing.”

The entire cast said they would like to see more support for the drama productions at UNCA. 

“No one talks about our theater department because it’s so small,” Wilson said. “Getting people to know the theater department even exists is hard, it just doesn’t get the press.”

Wilson said they understand the financial stress, particularly following the pandemic, so to encourage students to come and watch the show regardless of their situation, the drama department is offering tickets to students for free.

The cast eagerly prepares for open night and to perform for a live, present audience again as they fast approach the final weeks of rehearsals. 

“You finally see all this hard work you’ve put into the show taking form,” Lock said. 

“Twelfth Night” opens April 6 at the Belk Theater on campus. Tickets and additional information about the production is available online through the UNCA drama department website.