First Night, Twelfth Night

Earlier this week the Stanford community commemorated the 75th anniversary of Memorial Auditorium with a performance in Pigott Theater of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which was the first-night production on August 20, 1937, in what was then called Memorial Hall.

We can thank the plumbers for bringing Twelfth Night back to MemAud. To quote from the evening’s program, “it was ‘a very midsummer madness’ that led to the discovery of a cache of materials relating to the initial staging of the play right here on these boards.”

Plumbers working in the auditorium discovered two boxes tucked away in an unused tunnel in the building. The boxes contained set and lighting designs, crew schedules, memos regarding the management of the building, purchase orders and watercolor renderings as well as a program for the inaugural production of Twelfth Night.

The accidental time capsule inspired production manager ROSS WILLIAMS and former chair ALICE RAYNER and other staff and faculty at the Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) to bring the Bard’s comedy back for an anniversary performance.

A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts Class of 2014, under the director of DOMENIQUE LOZANO, presented the “Will on Wheels” production of the play to a sold-out crowd. It was the students’ last performance of the play, and they were delighted with the Pigott stage, which they called warm and acoustically enveloping, and the crowd, which they said got more of the humor than the middle and high school students they’ve been performing for as part of A.C.T.’s education outreach program. “We got laughs where we’ve never had them before,” said NEMUNA CEESAY, who played Maria.

Guests attending the after-party gala in the prop shop were treated to sumptuous nibbles and beverages while surrounded by sets and mementos from previous productions.

There was an airplane overhead from Threepenny Opera, a dramatic black-and-white drop from Skin of Our Teeth and a portrait designed to look like TAPS lecturer JEFFREY BIHR from Restoration Comedy presiding over the festivities.

Vintage film footage from 1937 (digitized by University Archivist DANIEL HARTWIG) of players rehearsing Twelfth Night on the Frost Amphitheater slope, sepia-toned images of Memorial Auditorium when it appeared to stand alone in a field and photographs from other productions over the years projected on a large screen reminded the revelers of the rich history of MemAud.

TAPS department chair JENNIFER DEVERE BRODY, who organized the event, said of the celebration, “This is just the beginning of more to come in the years ahead.”

—ROBIN WANDER