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.

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