Today we meet Hannah Dorsey, who plays Officer 2 and Valentine. Hannah hails from Pennsylvania and has just finished her first year at the University of Chicago.
Q. So, how did you find out about Twelfth Night, and what made you decide to try out for it?
HANNAH: I found out about it because one of my professors is part of the music directors for the show, so she told me about it and I decided I wanted to audition because I’m staying in Chicago over the summer, and I felt like I needed something social and fun to do since school would be over and my friends would be back home. Also I did theater in middle and high school and wanted to get back into it, and I really like Shakespeare.
Q. Tell me about your relationship with Shakespeare. When did you first get into him, and what drew you to him?
HANNAH: In eleventh grade we read Othello for English class and I didn’t expect to like it a lot, but about halfway through I realized I cared SO MUCH, and then I was hooked. I mean, everyone talks all the time about why Shakespeare’s great, but for me, what it comes down to is that he’s a great storyteller, and reading him you get the impression that it really is a timeless art. Like even if he’s using thee and thou and making references you don’t get and using weird sentence structure it’s still just, at the end of the day, a great story.
Q. So what is it about the story of Twelfth Night that you find most compelling?
HANNAH: Well, I mean, it’s funny, but more than that it’s the theme of subversion? I’m not sure what the correct word is, but like, how viola dresses as a man and no one suspects anything, Malvolio’s a servant and wants to marry a noble, Sebastian and Antonio are…not heterosexual. I could talk for a while about how this is a subversion of Renaissance philosophy (I study renaissance philosophy, but the thing is no one else cares about it), but basically the point is that even if Viola ends up living as a woman with Orsino and Malvolio ends up storming off and Sebastian ends up married to Olivia, while they were on stage, they could transcend their categories and be something that the very strict social hierarchy of the day didn’t allow them to be.
Q. I care about Renaissance philosophy, so if you want to say anything else about what light Renaissance philosophy has to shed on this aspect of the play, feel free!
HANNAH: Thank you! Basically the thing is in the medieval period and the Renaissance they thought that people were just innately what they were, and couldn’t transgress it at all whatsoever. Like they thought there was a biological difference between nobles and peasants, that they were literally made of different stuff, same with men and women. So when Viola and Malvolio (or Malvolia, in our case) subvert that, in Malvolio’s case it’s mostly played for laughs, but Viola does actually convince everyone that she’s a man, and that would have been a really confusing thing to the renaissance mind. They thought the “natural order of things” was MUCH more fixed than we do.
Q. Thanks! When you read a play like Twelfth Night, you don’t tend to spend too much time thinking about characters like Valentine and Officer 2. But in performance, these smaller roles are as important to the health of the show as the bigger ones. How do your characters fit into the bigger picture? What sorts of things are you doing to make them part of the subversion and the hilarity?
HANNAH: Well, most of the minor characters are generally part of the comedic bits. We’re doing a cool thing with Valentine and Curio and the rest of the courtiers where we’re all just so done with Orsino going on and on about how much he loves Olivia and how sad he is and we’re all like, “Look we can’t yell at him because he’s the Duke, but like. Why is he like this.” And Leslie’s really great about giving the minor characters stuff to do, instead of just having us stand around. The officers have some really funny moments in the last scene.
Q. I look forward to seeing all of this!
HANNAH: Yeah! It’ll be a great production, everyone in it is awesome.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you before we wrap up? Favorite Shakespeare character, favorite playwright other than Shakespeare, favorite flavor of ice cream, whatever…
HANNAH: You cannot possibly ask me to pick my favorite Shakespeare character, but I do love Hamlet a lot. My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate peanut butter!
Susan Harris with Hannah Dorsey