Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) - meet director Joanna Henry

Why did you decide to direct this show?
I wanted to direct The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) because I love Shakespeare.  His plays were written for the people, and The Reduced Shakespeare Company's version brilliantly condenses all 37 of Shakespeare's plays and parodies them.  This is a chance to have lots of fun with Shakespeare.  His works are presented as a cooking show, a football game, a rap, and a fast-forward Hamlet that then gets replayed backwards.  It's irreverent and fun!

What were you trying to accomplish with the telling of this play?
This isn't your normal play with a plot line and character interactions and relationships.  Three actors use their real names and play themselves acting out the characters in Shakespeare's plays.  This is Shakespeare as you never expected to see him.  Long, serious topics are reduced to short, silly comedies.  The comedies are presented in one convoluted reading justified by the idea that they all share the same plot devices.  The histories are presented in a football game.  The fourth wall doesn't exist.  The actors will often speak directly to the audience and get them involved with what's happening on stage.  My hope is that the audience will be engaged and vocal.

What were some challenges as a director?
One of the biggest challenges was rehearsing without actual people there to be part of the audience.  I actually asked friends to come by rehearsals so our three actors could practice interacting with an audience.  Of course, part of the fun is that the cast will never really know what the audience will say or how they'll react from performance to performance.  Improvisation plays an important role, and it's normal for the actors to deviate from the script and have conversations about the material with each other or with the audience.  It is also common for them to make references to pop culture or to talk about local people and places in the area.  As a result, one performance can be vastly different from another, even with the same cast.  Another challenge was the multitude of costume changes that these three men have to do very quickly, but we have an amazing costume designer to make that happen, along with a fabulous wardrobe crew.

What should the audience take away from this show?
We want our audiences to be a part of this show.  If you don't like Shakespeare, this play is for you.  If you love Shakespeare, this play is for you.  It's definitely Shakespeare for everyone!  Hopefully, audiences will leave the theatre smiling and thinking, "I thought I didn't like Shakespeare, but this was fun!"  I don't want to give too much away, but this play might change your view of the Bard.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) - meet cast member Dave Wright

Tell us about your character.
My character is basically me, so I guess I can tell you a little about David Wright, according to Wikepedia.  Wright was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the oldest of four sons of Rhon, a police officer in the Norfolk Police Department, and Elisa Wright.  He was raised in Chesapeake, Virginia.  Wright attended Hickory High School in Chesapeake.  Wright was the 2001 Gatorade Virginia High School Player of the Year.  Wright also earned All-State honors in 1999, 2000, and 2001 and was named Virginia All-State Player of the Year in 2001.  Over his four-year career at Hickory, Wright hit .438 with 13 home runs and 90 RBIs.  Wright planned to attend Georgia Tech and major in engineering.  Wright is of Scots-Irish descent.

What were some of the challenges you faced in working on this show?
A big challenge is trying to make sure you capture the humor of the show while still remaining faithful to the Shakespearean text.  Also, being a man of larger carriage, just making it through the show is a win for me.

What do you hope audiences take away from this show?
A new appreciation for Shakespeare that can be passed on to younger generations ... as well as the possibility of sharing the stage with Mets third baseman David Wright.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) - meet cast member Shawn g. Byers

Tell us about your character.
Essentially, in this show, I play myself.  In the original production, the three playwrights were also the actors in the show.  Our director wanted to stay true to this production, so each of us are playing ourselves onstage.  In that light, I do play the "Shakespeare expert" which is quite a hard thing to live up to.  While I did take Shakespearean courses, I would hardly characterize myself as an expert ... although, as I think audiences may pick up on, perhaps my character isn't as savvy as he likes to think.

What are some of the challenges you faced while working on this show?
The main challenge so far has been the weather.  We had to miss some rehearsals due to the snow storm a few weeks back.  Another challenge was simulating all of the audience interaction moments in a rehearsal setting.  Joanna (the director), however, anticipating this challenge arranged to have people to sit in on our rehearsals.  It's been a wonderfully fun process having people to interact and play off.  It was a brilliant idea from our fearless leader!

What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
Above all, I hope that audiences laugh.  There is so much humor in what Jess Winfield, Adam Long, and Daniel Singer wrote, and also with the bits of audience interaction and improv that we are able to do.  I also hope that they begin to see the accessibility and fun of Shakespeare.  But really, it's all about getting those chuckles, cackles, and guffaws.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) - meet cast member Hans Dettmar

Tell us a bit about your character.
I play 20 characters, including myself, so I guess I can talk about the one I know the best (me!) .. I'm 6'1", I'm a Leo..... just kidding.... um, well, I do play Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, so I like puppies and long walks on the beach but definitely NOT by moonlight!

What were some of the challenges you faced in working on this show?
You are running around the entire show from start to finish.  Some of the trickiest moments come at the very end of the show so you can't relax until literally after the final bow.  It makes for an intense experience, buy hey, that's why we do this!

What do you hope audiences take away from this play?
Well, I hope that they don't think our Shakespeare is, to quote the script: "dry, boring [and] vomitless".