Yale Repertory Theatre
Directed by Carl Cofield
Composer / Sound designer - Frederick Kennedy
Set design - Riw Rakkulchon
Lighting design - Samuel Kwan Chi Chan
Costume design - Mika H. Eubanks
Projection design - Brittany Bland
Carl Cofield, Assoc. Artistic Director of New York City's Classical Theater of Harlem, and the director of Yale Rep's 2019 production of this Shakespeare's 12th Night, described his vision for the piece as a celebration of Black culture and an Afro-Futurist reimagining of the text, with music playing an enormous role in telling that story.
The mandate given to the design team was to create a world that is both "familiar and strange; strange and familiar." Early research led to a host of contemporary music that has been coming out of Nigeria for the past several years—music that to a North American audience might seem recognizable in much of its timbral palette (familiar), and yet could be decidedly unfamiliar in its mashup of African languages, accents, and sounds.
I set about searching for a vocabulary that draws from these sounds, textures, and grooves; a palette that utilizes electronic, synthetic and futuristic sounds, but also the organic sound of the world. That nods to the Afro-Futurism in the work of iconic artists such as Prince and his New Power Generation project, and also incorporates traditional African drums, bells, and shakers as building blocks for grooves. And all supported and encompassed by the most primal sound of all, the human voice, though processed by numerous electronic tools.
The two pieces here are recordings from the production: lyrics from the original Shakespeare folio, music by myself.
“Here, music is a central game changer. Gone is the standard-issue, minstrel-with-a-guitar version of “O Mistress Mine,” replaced with a rendition by Feste (a cool, far-out Erron Crawford) of the Bard’s verse involving techno beats and Auto-Tune.
“Twelfth Night” is one of the most musical of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of his most famous lyrics, including “O mistress mine” and “Hey ho, the wind and the rain," have been given stunning R&B/soul settings by composer/sound designer Frederick Kennedy. The songs are fluid, catchy and contemporary."
“Orsino’s famous speech concerning the nutritional value of music for a love-starved appetite morphs into a full-tilt boogie exaltation of his fantasy of Ideal Love, thanks to a game cast surrendering itself entirely to the spirit of the text and Frederick Kennedy’s exhilarating music."
“Cofield, with composer Frederick Kennedy, finds incredible music in the script—Feste lifts the play with a soaring and autotuned version of “O mistress mine” that channels Janelle Monae and Drexciya instead of a courtly afternoon.”
“Invaluable work from both Frederick Kennedy (composer and sound design) and Brittany Bland (projection design) make the show a visual and aural feast.”