Actor,director, choreographer

Shakespeare play combines classics with comedy

Campus correspondent

Forget what you know about Shakespeare.

Beginning today, this 90-minute comedy combines 37 of Shakespeare's works to be performed at the hands of three male actors.

The play, presented by the University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance, is a parody of all Shakespeare's works, especially the tragedies, said director Kevin Marshall.

It's more entertaining to poke fun at the tragedies than the comedies, he said.

Since the play is based on Shakespeare's greatest hits, audiences who are familiar with his works will enjoy it just as much as those who aren't, Smith said.

While there's plenty of classic Shakespeare lines twisted into this modern-day rendition, improvisation and audience participation characterize the show.

One audience member will even have the chance to play Ophelia from "Hamlet" in part of the show, though the whole audience is involved in some aspect of the play, Marshall said.

Despite having almost 400-year-old roots, the play features plenty of references to contemporary pop culture and political jokes, ranging from conservative to liberal views, he said.

"We're part of an equal opportunity offender here," Marshall said, smiling. "We don't want to leave anyone out."

Audiences can also look forward to "Titus Andronicus" performed as a cooking show and "Othello" transformed into a Beastie Boys-style rap.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, both 7:30 p.m. and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The show runs through Aug. 12.

Reserved tickets for the show are $9 for UF students, faculty, staff and senior citizens with a valid ID and $13 for the general public.

The cast will put on 29 performances of the Shakespearian comedy, with select midnight showings offering a spicier take on Shakespeare. These versions, Marshall said, are an attempt to entice UF's younger crowd.

Regardless, each fast-paced performance represents an opportunity to introduce students to live theater, he said.

The entire cast is comprised of six men, though the actors will be on rotation, with only three appearing in each performance.

All actors will essentially test out their drag queen abilities by undertaking both male and female roles, switching between men's and women's costumes. Marshall said it's his favorite part of working on the play.

Robert Smith, a third-year theater performance graduate student, is one of the actors appearing in the production. He said he enjoys having the ability to make the play his own.

The original script of the play was written more than 20 years ago by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

It beckons the actors to put a modern spin on Shakespeare, Smith said. He achieves this with several of his own jokes and references, ranging from Jerry Springer to Dr. Phil.

"It's to get modern audiences to enjoy Shakespeare, even if they hate it," he said.

With audience interaction throughout the show, each performance is unique. Part of the excitement is not knowing how each audience will react, Smith said.

Rachel Wyle, stage manager for the play and a third-year theater and art history major, said even though she sees the show nearly every day, she still finds herself laughing.

Each performance of the show will be held in the Black Box Theatre at the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion, which holds about 120 seats. The set pieces are also quite minimal, allowing the actors to completely captivate the audience in a more involved and intimate atmosphere, she said.

The play itself is similar to seeing a great comedy show, Wyle said.

"It's not theatrical or dramatic," she said. "It's one of the better things to see and do this summer."

For tickets or more information, call the University Box Office at (352) 392-1653 or


Shakespeare gets makeover


Avenue Writer

Gainesville summers are full of opportunities: less traffic, outdoor adventures and endlessly uneventful nights, to name a few.

This summer, the UF School of Theatre and Dance is trying to drag the local public out of the usual drink-and-movie rut.

Beginning Thursday and running through Aug. 12, six of UF's master of fine arts program actors will sweep the Black Box Theatre's stage.

The cast will perform an over-the-top consolidation of William Shakespeare's 37 plays in a production entitled "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged."

Sarah Modell, production manager for UF's School of Theatre and Dance, said three of the six cast members will be featured nightly, performing all the roles in Shakespeare's plays in about 90 minutes.

The fast-paced production will be packed with witty dialogue, awkward female impersonations and willful mix-ups.

The School of Theatre and Dance prepared the improvisation-influenced script to allow for extra input: Members of the audience will have the opportunity to take an active role in the fun, as the cast calls for audience participation.

"You don't have to be into theater for it to appeal to you," Modell said. "It's a lot of fun, so have a good time."

Dialogue throughout the performance will use pop culture and local references, which makes Shakespeare contemporary.

Segments of the show will feature the actors engaging in Beastie Boys-style raps to interpret "Othello," as well as a cooking show version of "Titus Andronicus."

The unique nature of the play is increased by its midnight showings, which will run Friday and Saturday nights.

"We thought it would be something fun for the college students that are still in town," Modell said.

This is the first time this type of show has been produced at UF, Modell said. The comedic antics in the script and unconventional nature of the production, make for a show that different audiences can enjoy.

Tickets cost $9 for students and $13 for the general public.

Actors step into their silly side of Shakespeare


Members of the alternating three-man cast of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged," will adopt the role of the jester, promising to jump start any old wrinkles in 90 minutes flat.

The show opens Friday and runs through Aug. 12 in the Black Box Theatre at the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion.

"It's really witty and clever," said director Kevin Marshall. "I sit there in rehearsal and laugh constantly. The audiences will have a smiles on their faces the whole night."

Written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1994, the farcical speed-through performance transforms the work of genius into an uproarious frolic that was one of the longest-running productions at the Criterion Theater in London.

"It's a marathon of Shakespeare's greatest hits," Marshall said.

The parody casts the fourth wall to the four winds, and encourages audience participation in the grand tradition of the Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare's plays, in total 37 masterpieces, take the stage in several contemporary forms, all of which have proven palatable for the Elizabethan theatre-wary.

"You don't have to know anything about Shakespeare to love this play," said actor Michael Toth, who is pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in acting. "Even though the play makes fun of Shakespeare, you will walk away knowing more about his work."

Toth cited the inspiration of the original script.

"What's fascinating about the show is that it was developed by the three authors through improvisation," Toth said.

Before his acting career in Gainesville, Toth studied Shakespeare in Winchester, England after receiving the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.

The production will bear the unique badge of the cast, which keeps abreast of recent developments in pop culture to add to the comedy.

Hilarity is known to ensue when actors convert "Titus Adronicus" into a cooking show and deliver "Othello" as a hip-hop song.

The Shakespearean "players" will become American football players in a match that recalls Will's original histories.

The actors hurl around the British crown in the same irreverent, Monty-Python-esque manner with which they toss around the words written by the most renowned playwright ever to dab a feather quill to an ink pot.

Marshall is confident that the cast will serve the comedic nature of the play to great effect.

"These are very talented actors." Marshall said. "It's a no-holds-barred approach to Shakespeare and it has improvisational roots, however, everything is well-rehearsed."

Marshall divided the cast into two teams. The blue team will include Bryant Smith, Robert Smith and Matthew Lindsay, while Michael T. Toth, Daniel Flores and Ted Stephens III make up the orange team.

"It's been a real joy to work with this cast," Marshall said. "We have tried to make it contemporary so whatever is on the news you'll see on the stage. It's anachronistic in that we are blending 2007 with Shakespeare, but we hope that the audience will forgive us.