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BWW Interview: Hannah Rose Caton in TWELFTH NIGHT at Two River Theater

by Marina Kennedy

Two River Theater is now presenting William Shakespeare‘s romantic comedy Twelfth Night, directed by Sara Holdren with original songs composed by the band/theater collective, The Lobbyists. Performances will be in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater through Sunday, February 2.

After a shipwreck leaves fraternal twins Viola and Sebastian separated on the shores of Illyria, each thinking the other lost, Viola disguises herself as a man and joins the court of the Duke Orsino. Orsino, loves the fair Olivia. Olivia loves the handsome Cesario. Cesario, however, is actually Viola-in disguise, and in love with Orsino. This tempestuous love triangle is further complicated by a motley crew that includes Olivia’s drunken uncle, pompous steward, scheming servant, and witty fool. The result is a sublime comedy and one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays.

Twelfth Night will feature Hannah Rose Caton, making her Two River debut, as Viola and Joey McIntyre, a veteran of Broadway’s Waitress and Wicked and a member of 1980’s pop group New Kids on the Block, as Orsino. The full company includes Celeste CiullaTommy CrawfordRichard HollisCarman LacivitaKathleen Littlefield, Luis Quintero, Kurt RhoadsRudy RoushdiWill Turner, and Tony Aidan Vo. had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Rose Caton about the show and her career.

Hannah Rose Caton is a NYC/London-based actress and recent graduate of The Juilliard School’s Drama Division. She’s thrilled to be working with Sara Holdren and to be performing at Two River Theater for the first time. Off-Broadway/Regional Theater: Mrs. Christie (Vermont Theatre Festival), An Octoroon (Chautauqua Theater Company), Untitled Russia Play (reading at Chautauqua Theater Company), Hay Fever (West Fulton Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sadler’s Wells Theatre). TV & Film: The FallingLOH, Last Knights, Wizards vs Aliens, Beady Eye. Juilliard: Queens (by Pulitzer Prize winner, Martyna Majok), Detroit ’67Rita También Rita (The Playwriting Festival), Richard IIQueens BoulevardTop GirlsDancing at LughnasaHamletOnce in a LifetimeOur Lady of 121st Street.

What was the very first role you ever played?

The very first role I played was the Pharoah in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat in Primiary School! I then went on to play the scarecrow in the musical The Wiz and when I was thirteen I got cast as Viola in a thirty-minute production of Twelfth Night for the London Shakespeare Schools Festival. It was actually the role of Viola that made me fall in love with language, acting and Shakespeare. A very special teacher called Ms. Vicars, spotted my talent and pushed me to pursue acting further. I later got into The BRIT School for Performing Arts in London. So this is quite an exciting time, now having trained at Juilliard and approaching the role again as an adult during my first year out of school and at Two River Theater! It feels very special.

Tell us a little about your education at The Juilliard School.

Juilliard was an incredibly rewarding program but it was also challenging. Each year caters to the different aspects of your artistry and growth. You are truly stretched, the days are long but you are also cared for. There were classes that forever changed me as an artist; world-class teachers with so much knowledge to soak up. You are delving into texts and characters that so far, personally have really served me out in the world.

It’s also quite wonderful to be surrounded by other types of aspiring artists wondering around the building and seeing choreography from Paul Taylor and Alvin Ailey and hearing the most magnificent Jazz and classical music down the halls.

Most are dedicated and hard working and this of course, inhabits an environment where you want to give it your all. I definitely learnt that failure is as important as success, in fact it’s pivotal in what we do. So is listening.

What are some of the challenges of playing Viola in Twelfth Night.

Viola is a character close to my heart and many others I suspect. She’s brave and has a magnificent mind and wit. Her brother, Sebastian says, “she bore a mind that envy could not but call fair”. I think the hardest part of playing her however, is the balance of her honesty with the fact that she’s ironically disguised as a “eunuch” during the play… and the dilemmas she faces with those forces at work in a truthful manner.

How do you like working at Two River Theater?

It’s been absolutely lovely working at Two River Theater. Everyone has been great! Also the scenery from our apartments has been pretty beautiful and inspiring, especially when working on such wonder-ful text!

Can you tell us a little about your fellow cast members and the creative team?

Yes, Sara Holdren, the director has such a vast knowledge for Shakespeare and is a joy to work with. I’m excited to see what she does next! The creative team have been fabulous and the cast are all superb. Kurt Rhoads who plays Sir Toby actually eats fish on stage (now that’s commitment!) And also has some very naughty rhymes. Everyone has brought something delightfully specific and unique to their roles. It’s been great fun and I always look forward to rehearsals.

Why do you think Red Bank audiences will appreciate the opportunity to see Twelfth Night?

It’s a play that for me makes one appreciate their loved ones. Seeing Viola and Sebastian recognize each other at the end of the play is always magical. The play has a great sense of mischief, humor romance and sadness…There’s a lot fun and games and lovers’ meetings and some deeply moving moments as well. I hope people will appreciate starting their new decade off on a theatrical journey with Twelfth Night and all the laughter and song it invokes!

Can you share any of your future plans?

I can’t say too much but I played one of the leads in a movie directed by John Stephenson (Animal FarmFive Children and It) this summer, which premieres this year at The Toronto Film Festival. I’m also hoping to get some of my writing projects off of the page this year and into action.

Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know.

My other obsessions include Lord of the Rings and figure skating!

You can follow Hannah Rose Caton on Instagram @hannahrosecaton.

Twelfth Night will be performed at Two River Theater through Sunday, February 2. The Theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red bank, New Jersey. Tickets are available by calling 732.345.1400 or by visiting Two River Theater is under the leadership of Artistic Director, John Dias and Managing Director. Michael Hurst. The Theater’s 2019/20 Season Sponsor is Hackensack Meridian Health Riverview Medical Center. Twelfth Night is sponsored by Monmouth University.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Rose Caton