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A Comedic New Take on Ageless Shakespearean Works

Caitlyn Scherger '22

Features Editor

Xander Dotson (left), Lauren Martin (center) and James Trani (right) will attempt to perform 37 plays in 90 minutes. Photo Couresy of Maisha Khan

To see or not to see? That is the question about R-MC Theatre’s newest production “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”. It’s directed by Professor Maria Scott of R-MC’s English department and stars actors James Trani ’20, Lauren Martin ’21, and Xander Dotson ’20, who all play alternate versions of themselves. This show dares to try something never done here on R-MC’s campus before: run through all of Shakespeare’s plays in 90 minutes.

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, the play illustrates the struggles the students face as they have to make some crucial choices between what to include and what to leave out of their performance due to the time constraint. This has led to some of the more memorable moments from each play to be included in the students’ abridged version and excludes many of the less action-driven moments such as world-building and background scenes. Instead, it focuses on the more action-packed, dramatic scenes, creating a production full of non-stop excitement. Sometimes it changes so quickly from scene to scene that it can be challenging to follow if you are unfamiliar with the original plays and performances.

But you don’t have to know the original plays in order to properly enjoy the show. Whether you know the source material or not, the show portrays Shakespeare’s plays in a comedic and accessible way that can be enjoyed by everyone, Shakespeare lovers and haters alike.

Professor Scott hopes that seeing this show will encourage more people to look into Shakespeare’s works, even though they typically are written in Old English (which can be difficult to comprehend) that discourages readers from even briefly picking up one of his works.

In regard to why she specifically chose this play, Professor Scott explained, “I love introducing Shakespeare to people who would otherwise not be interested in Shakespeare. And hopefully, this will get some people thinking ‘hm, well, maybe I’ll try it’.”

This play certainly has the potential to entice former Shakespeare haters to give his manuscripts another try. Especially because as Professor Scott describes it, “it’s three people seemingly trying to put on a ‘play’, without really knowing what they’re doing.”

This is where some of the ingeniousness of this play comes from. You can’t really tell if the actors are just making everything up as they go and they really don’t know what they’re doing, creating a different performance every time, or if everything was just masterfully planned. It also gives the illusion that even the students sometimes may not fully understand Shakespeare’s plays, which helps those who are not as familiar with the plays connect with the play. And keeping this ambiguity isn’t the only struggle with the mastering of this production.

“The hardest part has probably been getting the grasp of Shakespeare and transmitting that in a way that makes sense to the everyman and also a person that really adores Shakespeare,” said Maisha Khan ’20, assistant director. “The end of the show is quite challenging,” she added, but couldn’t specifically say why, leaving that as a surprise for audiences who come out and support the show. The play also is special for some of the actors.

For Xander Dotson, “it is a chance to get back on stage after a long while of just working tech.”

But their hard work seems to have paid off in the end. I personally haven’t seen many of Shakespeare’s works, but I still understood what was happening and many of the jokes, both the subtle and in your face ones. Even if you haven’t studied or familiarized yourself with Shakespeare’s works, you can still sit back and enjoy this production and the hard work that goes into crafting a show like this.

Khan is convinced everyone should come see the show. “Why shouldn’t you? It’s right before Thanksgiving,” she said. “It’s a busy time, you’re submitting all your work. You need a night of laughter and silliness and this will give you just that.”

So, what are you waiting for? Take a well-deserved break and come out and support R-MC Theatre and enjoy the entertaining and abridged version of all 37 of William Shakespeare’s works!

This production is open to all. R-MC students, staff, and faculty can get in for free, and for $5 the general public can come see this show. This production will be available to see on November 20, 21, and 22 at 7 P.M., and will be shown November 23 at 2 P.M. and 7 P.M. All shows will be in Cobb Theater. Call the Box Office (804) 752-7316 or visit bit.ly/rmccompleteworks to reserve seats. For more information regarding the 2019-20 season offered at R-MC, visit: https://www.rmc.edu/departments/Theatre/current-season

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