Home > thru 8/24--The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)(review)
thru 8/24--The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)(review)

Short Description of thru 8/24--The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)(review)

Thru August 24

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

(inthespotlight interview follows)

Shakespeare & Co

70 Kemble Street

Lenox, MA

shakespeare.org

Young kids and Shakespeare? Children saying, “That was awesome, I want to see it again”? Kids in theater, at a time when theaters are scratching their collective heads, wondering the fate of great theater when the next generation arrives at middle age? When theater is trying to avoid the same catastrophic demise of the dinosaur and print?

Yes. Kids having fun at Shakespeare. How do I know? I brought one. A 12 year old. A boy, no less, who loves mountain biking, fishing and all the things 12 year old boys like. But this time, he was watching Shakespeare, laughed the entire time, came home and said, “Dad, that was a blast!”

Don't take just my word for it. There were other kids, too, young ones, even teenagers, having fun—watching Shakespeare. And at the end of Summer, and school starts, Shakespeare & Co continues its world-changing educational series of Shakespeare for high schools, where last Fall we witnessed first- hand pep rallies and kids jumping on the bus to Shakes & Co for fun-fun-fun. Yes, folks. What we all wished happened to Math and Shakespeare when we were in school, has arrived.

Shakespeare & Co. loves Shakespeare. The company oozes passion and trembles in delight during their performances. Like all passionate beings, they want you to enjoy it, too. Like a kid in a candy store, this company beckons, and says, “C'mon, let me show you what you've been missing. I promise this time it will be different!” They want to rip down all the barriers and pain your English class forced on you, and make it be enjoyable the way it should be. Someone with vision somewhere along the line saw the gap between text and learning and kids and Shakespeare, and saw a disconnect with traditional approach. Someone with vision saw this and said, “There's got to be a better way.”

Let's face it, more of us hated Shakespeare in school than enjoyed it. Why? We didn't have a Shakespeare & Co. We didn't have someone that understood our pain, and we didn't have someone to share their joy with the subject. To open our eyes to what they saw, and what we didn't see; to hold our hand as we cross the bridge to a better understanding and a brighter light. Little did we know we weren't the only ones suffering in silence in school. Shakespeare & Co has now made its mission to serve this delectable literature to us on a platter. This educational angle and perspective catapults the intelligence of our society into orbit, much the same way the Khan academy revolutionized other subjects.

The current mission is embodied in a Summer long performance playing until August 30th entitled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). It is a colloquy of Shakespeare's works, done by three completely talented and genius actors, who walk us through The Great One's plays through rap, modern hip hop, football games, a cooking show, and humor and laughter galore. Besides being extremely educational, this piece is a laugh a minute with audience involvement and participation. You can know nothing about Shakespeare and still collapse in belly laughs. Instead of scratching your head and saying, “Why do we have to read this?”, the answer will come to you loud and clear.

 

Shakespeare got F-U-N, folks (can't speak for math yet) [Interview with director below]

by ADAM LONG, DANIEL SINGER, and JESS WINFIELD
directed by JONATHAN CROY

starring:

Charles Sedwick Hall

Josh Aaron McCabe

Ryan Winkles

Make Your Berkshire Summer Complete 
 
The following is an interview with Jonathan Croy, director of Shakespeare & Company's comedy, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
Shakespeare &  Company, Lenox, MA
through August 24, 2014
 
Spotlight: What would you say about Complete Works to entice a non-Shakespeare lover to see this play? In particular, the title alone implies that the audience will spend hours upon hours sitting in a theatre, watching segments of all 37 plays -- the ones they were forced to read in high school and, worse yet, the ones they have never even heard of.  
 Croy: Well, although this is certainly a whimsical, over-the-top evening of comedy, I keep thinking of it as a “lovingly playful homage” to Shakespeare’s plays—we do touch upon (okay, at least, mention) them all, but most of the plays are presented through the lens of a skewed affection…I typically stress the “loving” and “affectionate” descriptors because as wacky as this play gets (and it certainly does go there), I believe that the guys who wrote this piece had a deep love of the plays.       
 I don’t think anyone needs to study up to see Complete Works…it’s a bit like The Muppet Show, in that there are multiple layers of jokes…there’s plenty for people with no familiarity with Shakespeare to enjoy, and then there are jokes for people with great familiarity with the plays.
Spotlight: How are you and the three actors possibly able to go through the rehearsal process without completely and constantly breaking up in hilarious laughter every minute? How does one maintain professionalism?
Croy: By redefining the term “professionalism." But seriously, our rehearsal room was a non-stop jamboree of laughter, as well it should be. That atmosphere is totally appropriate to a play like this— not only because of the sheer amount of silliness, but also because it’s a joyful comedy, and spending our days laughing together seemed like a good place from which to create that.
Spotlight: What is your directing style? Dictatorial? Laisez faire? Improv? How much input do you permit your actors, if any?
Croy: I was first drawn to Shakespeare & Company by the openly collaborative spirit here. So not only do I permit the actors to have input, I demand that they be participants in the process of creating the show, especially for a play like Complete Works. These actors have serious game when it comes to comedy, and it would be criminally stupid of me to ignore that. This is a really funny script, with a broad comedic vocabulary, so in putting our production together, I’ve been looking to build the show from the moments, the ideas, the aspects of characters that these three actors find enjoyable, rather than walking into the room with a finished product in mind
Spotlight: You have been onstage and are now backstage for this play. Do you see Complete Works in a new light now? Do you wish you were one of the actors having a hell of a good time, or "just" the director?
Croy: Interestingly, I do find that the societal context has an impact on this play—this was developed originally 20 to 25 years ago, and our attitudes have shifted and changed in so many way. We’re in the middle of our Preview performances now, and I’ve been fascinated by the differences in the audiences’ responses, as compared to 15 years ago when we first did this play. Some of the jokes have had to be updated, others have had to take a different tone. On some issues, our audiences seem to need a different point of view. 
 I also believe that comedy is an ever-expanding universe. When a television show like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report hits popular culture, it refines our taste in political commentary; when Seinfeld hits, it refines our taste in absurdism; when The Hangover comes along, it refines our taste in silliness… so one of the great challenges in approaching a script like this is in staying ahead of the curve.
Spotlight: I have seen two of the three actors perform together numerous times --  Ryan Winkles and Josh Aaron McCabe. Frankly, they need no script. Both could read the phone book aloud and the audience will be in stitches. I am sure that the third actor, Charls Sedgwick Hall is top notch as well. So, how do you enjoy working with these guys? Did you hand-pick them for this play?
Croy: Yes, I did… Ryan & Josh are certainly no strangers to this style of comedy, or the demands it makes on actors. Charlie and I worked together here back in 1984 & ’85 (!), and I’ve wanted to work with him again ever since. He’s a wonderful actor with a heart the size of Kansas.
Spotlight: Costumes and props are so important in this play. It seems to me, having seen Complete Works six times that the rule of thumb is...the cheaper and the cheesier the better. If I am correct, I believe there is a rubber chicken?
Croy: I get your point—I’ve seen this 6 - 8 times myself, plus the five versions that sprung from ours. I have to say, though, that the Costume Designer and I decided to go a bit more upscale on this one — we’re looking for a world in which the whimsy springs from a slightly more “complete” vision of each play.
Spotlight: And speaking of costumes, please describe the choreography of the talented backstage crew who help dress three actors in the roles of over 700 characters in just 2 hours. What is the secret to making this all happen in split second time?   
 Croy: Velcro, artful snaps & zippers and gravity and…I don’t even know what. We’re certainly blessed to have two compadres backstage—Jessie Chapman and Ben Hover—who are experts at this kind of thing…no joke at all, without them, this would not be possible..
Spotlight: How do you think Shakespeare would feel about Complete Works?  Would he approve? Is he turning in his grave? Or is he having a hoot on this, his 450th birthday?
Croy: I’d say he’d have a good time with this, given the level of low-brow comedy in many of his own comedies, I think he’d get the jokes.

 

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Address: 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA, United States

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