SANTA FE, N.M. — Many Americans’ Christmas festivities may end on Dec. 25, but in Shakespearean times, the celebrations were just getting started.
As a nod to Elizabethan-era holiday traditions, members from the Upstart Crows of Santa Fe will be at the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens the day after Christmas acting out scenes from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” as well as singing songs from the play and other carols from the era.
The timing is fitting, said Caryl Farkas, director of the children’s Shakespeare group, because the comedy takes place during the days following Christmas. Twelfth Night, an English holiday season, celebrates the days leading up to the Epiphany, or the time the Wise Men visited Jesus following his birth.
“Those were 12 days of revelry and feasting and partying,” said Farkas. “It was probably written as a reference to that period and to perform during that period.”
“Twelfth Night,” from the early 1600s, follows Viola, who is traveling with her twin brother when the two are shipwrecked and she presumes he is dead. She disguises herself as a man, but later falls in love with a duke. But the duke is in love with Olivia, who is coincidentally in love with Viola under the assumption that she is a man.
The young actors, some 15 in all, ranging in ages from about 10 to 18, will do roughly eight to 10 scenes, or about half of the entire play. Farkas said the most action-heavy, comedic and well-known scenes will likely be performed, including the sword-fighting scenes, the scenes in which Malvolio, another man who is love with Olivia, finds a planted letter that states she is in love with him, and Viola’s famous “I am the man” soliloquy.
The group also will sing songs from the play, which Farkas said is one of Shakespeare’s “most musical,” as well as centuries-old carols like “I Saw Three Ships,” “Good King Wenceslas” and “Boar’s Head Carol.”
While some of the songs may be unfamiliar, Farkas said last year when the group sang similar tunes at the Botanical Gardens, there were several people singing along with the kids.
It seems like elements of Shakespeare’s plotline allude to Twelfth Night celebrations, said Farkas. She cited an odd, role-switching English tradition of servants acting as masters and masters acting as servants for a short period during this time. It’s not unlike the Bard’s story of “mistaken identities” and Viola pretending to be who she is not.
“It’s farcical and builds on that idea of topsy turvy,” Farkas said of the play, which Upstart Crows also performed in May.
The Dec. 26 show is part of the Botanical Garden’s GLOW festivities, with live entertainment every evening until Jan. 1.