Yale Rep's 'Twelfth Night' Goes Afro-Futurist

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It’s a brave new multi-cultural world for the upcoming production of Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which runs Friday, March 15 to Saturday, April 6 at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven.

Some audiences might identify with Viola as she steps ashore in a strange new land after a shipwreck and asks, “What country, friends, is this?”

It’s all part of director Carl Cofield’s vision in which he injects one of the Bard’s most popular romantic comedies with a vibrant visual look that he calls “Afro-futurist.”

Think of the hip-tribal look of a film that recently won several Academy Awards including Best Costume Design, Black Panther. Kind of. But set in the future, not the past.

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“It’s inspired by the Afro-Punk Movement on Instagram and other social media, in which brown and black people reclaim traditional Western narratives and create their own mythology based on the world around them,” he says.

Cofield says he is staying true to the Shakespearean text but that doesn’t mean he can’t add a different layer of interpretation, too.

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“We can still tell the story, but one that will resonate in a different way when we see people unlike people we’ve seen before play it,” he says.

Cofield says an example he uses about radical takes on Shakespeare is that “The Star Spangled Banner” can be sung in a traditional way at the start of a baseball game and it’s usually sung in a standard and overly familiar way—“and then there’s the way Jimi Hendrix plays it.”


The design team that is creating the visual landscape of Ilyria, which is set 30 or 40 years in the future, is made up of Yale School of Drama grad students.


Carl Cofield

Carl Cofield

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