Ben Engel/Nevada Sagebrush

With only three weeks of rehearsals left, the cast of “Twelfth Night” is both nervous and excited. The play follows the character Viola, who gets shipwrecked and must dress as a man.

“She dresses as a man for security reasons,” says Marygrace McManus, the actress playing Viola. “She thinks she’s all alone in the world.”

Cabral — or Adi as he’s called by his cast — was excited to take on this play when the concepts of gender and identity are issues on everybody’s mind.

“I’ve done a lot of work exploring the intricacies of gender in performance, so this play was really chosen so that we could focus on gender as performance, and gender performance for survival as a huge element of the story,” Cabral said.

Cabral is not the only one excited about exploring gender with the characters in “Twelfth Night.” Many of the cast members love the freedom Cabral has given them in terms of character exploration. One way Cabral has been exploring gender with his cast has been with extensive voice work.

“I love the approach of voice and speech for actors and non-performers as a way to empower ourselves in space, empower how we use our voice, empower how we present ourselves to the world,” Cabral said. “I think there’s a healing quality to voice work that really drew me to it.”

Besides voice work, the cast has been heavily emphasizing their characters’ physicality. Each cast member tries to make everything about their character unique from the rest of the cast, down to the way their character walks and sits down.

Aiden Billharz has taken physicality to new heights by learning some acrobatics for his character, Feste.

“I was kind of joking at the time because no way could you teach someone a backflip in two months,” Billharz said.

Cabral thinks all of this physicality will help make Twelfth Night much funnier, as “Twelfth Night” is a comedy.

“The antics Viola gets herself into by disguising herself as a man are hilarious,” Cabral said. “Fitting in comic timing that help to elevate the story and bring the comedic elements back to the foreground has been another fun part of our process.”

The cast has had some difficulties while preparing the show for opening, including staging as well as the Shakespearean dialogue.

Despite the show being performed in a circular theatre, the cast has found ways to open up the space in order to be visible by more of the audience.

“One of the first things that Adi broke us out of was the feeling that we needed to be next to each other to have a conversation,” Billharz said. “This way, we could spread out and use the whole stage while still talking to each other.”

The biggest difficulty Cabral and the cast have had to overcome is the play’s language itself.

“Shakespeare is a lot of people’s weak points,” Cabral said. “The language is really hard to listen to. It’s very poetic, and it’s a structure that we’re not used to listening to.”

In order to bring the play into the present, they’ve changed the setting from Illyria, the original setting, to the Playa in the Black Rock Desert.

“When you think of Shakespeare, you think puffy sleeves and period pieces, but what we’re doing is bringing it into a modern setting to make it more relatable,” Billharz said.

Not only does the Playa bring “Twelfth Night” into the 21st century, but the Playa also plays into the theme of identity.

“One of the biggest rules on the Playa is self-expression,” McManus said. “When people step on to the Playa, they’re allowed to be whoever they want to be and express whatever they want to express.”

The Playa’s culture is being infused into the show with the help of Assistant Director, Riley McKinney who has attended events at the Black Rock Desert for several years.

“I have found a home in its culture and community,” MicKinney said. “The space for radical self-expression and encouraged participation in all things is the reason I am who I am today.”

Cabral is thrilled with the cast’s growth in rehearsals as well as their worth ethic.

“They’re so much more confident about making new choices,” Cabral said. “It certainly makes my job easier. They’re really responsible, and they’re really good at balancing their workload. If they’re not rehearsing a scene, they’re off on the side doing their homework.”

Above all, the entire cast and crew is eager to show their audiences what they’ve been working on.

“The countdown to opening night is always filled with stress, panic and sleep deprivation,” McKinney said. “But it’s also filled with the comfort of knowing we will be ready by the time we open. I have full faith in my cast and crew that we will have an amazing show by March 2nd.”

“Twelfth Night” opens at the Redfield Studio Theatre in less than a month. The show runs March 2-4 and March 7-10. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. except for the 1:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 4. Tickets can be purchased at the University of Nevada, Reno’s (UNR) Theatre Department website.