The upcoming play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged will cover all 37 Shakespeare plays in 99 minutes or less. This adaptation centers the plays around improvisation, Whittier College -centered jokes, and tongue-in-cheek humor that is sure to shock and delight the audience.
The play will be performed in the Studio Theatre of the Ruth B. Shannon Center from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, and is free for all Whittier College students with proper ID tonight, Thursday Nov. 17. The play is directed by Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Gil Gonzales and features three actors — senior Ian Clark, junior Gunner Joachim, and first-year Lauren Estrada — the smallest cast Gonzales has ever worked with at Whittier College. The show is also stage managed by sophomoreRyan Talbert with assistance from first-year Madison Greer.
Though featuring familiar characters, Complete Works incorporates new twists. “Shakespeare can be really fun,” said Gonzales. “Some people fear they cannot understand Shakespeare, so they don’t even try. This play takes all the best, most fun moments of most of the plays, and plays very fast and very loose with their interpretations.” Gonzales believes that it is a show that could truly appeal to all because it is modern and addresses some of the misunderstandings that surround Shakespeare’s work.
The short interpretations of all of Shakespeare’s plays allow each actorto play multiple roles. According to Joachim, the fast pace and the constant changing of characters keeps the show fun and entertaining. “The challenge and the fun is playing with different archetypes and trying to differentiate between characters,” he said.
The play was originally written for a cast of three men, but Gonzales decided to cast two males and one female. Each actor players roles that are typically assigned to the opposite gender, challenging gender roles.
“As the one female in the cast, it was interesting to challenge the masculine dynamic of the play, which included a lot of ‘male-oriented’ humor,” Estrada said. “The play is hilarious, and I think it’s important that audiences realize that gender doesn’t hinder a person’s ability to be funny.”
Clark agreed that the lack of gender normativity has been an exciting element to experiment with. “What makes my role in the show so fun is having to go between some of Shakespeare’s more masculine and intimidating characters to the female roles,” Clark said. “I play more female roles out of all the cast, and it is amazing having as much freedom as I can with it.”
Complete Works is not a set script. It relies on the actors improvisation in rehearsal and during shows, which ensures that no two rehearsals or two shows are alike. Gonzales and the cast said that the free nature of rehearsals has made this show really enjoyable to work on.
“Gunner, Ian, and Lauren made this process a treat to watch each night,” Gonzales said. “They all took direction extremely well, especially as we crafted some specific jokes for the Whittier College audience. I’ve had a blast watching this group play, have fun, make each other crack up, and simply be silly each night.”
For Estrada, improvising every night has allowed her to experiment with her acting. “My favorite part of working on this show has been the freedom to act ‘big’ and just go to really silly places with the comedy,” said Estrada. “I liked that this show gave the cast the opportunity to try several things with their characters before settling into a choice. Possibility is always exciting to me.”
This format of rehearsal has also helped to develop a special bond between Gonzales and the cast. “We had to build a lot of trust with one another, and I think that really shows onstage,” Joachim said.
“I feel so thankful to be part of this production,” Estrada said. “Getting involved with the theater department has allowed me to meet some amazing people, and has really helped me build my confidence through finding a support system and encouraging me to challenge myself in acting. The program is tight-knit and incredibly supportive, which I really appreciate as a first-year student.”
Clark is typically behind the scenes;,so to him, this experience has been an unforgettable change. “With most shows, I’m mostly working behind the scenes either on lights, sound, or the scenery,” he said. “So, to be the literal center of attention, on stage with other people, is both exciting and nerve-racking. But it’s definitely great to be on stage for a change and be a part of the action.”
The intimate space of the studio theater also allows the audience to become fully engrossed in the action. “The audience is so close to the performers, and the energy in the space is electric,” Gonzales said. “I love shows like this, and working in the studio theatre is always a joy.”
“I hope the audience gets a little levity from watching the show at a time when we could all benefit from a little positivity,” said Estrada. “I also hope that the audience realizes that maybe Shakespeare isn’t as intimidating as it may seem, and will give the Bard’s works another chance with a fresh perspective.”
Clark believes that theater is a true way of connecting with one another and enjoying a laugh with others. “We have been going through a lot of trials and tribulations the past few months, and sometimes we have forgotten that something as simple as sharing a theatrical experience together is what makes us human,” Clark said. “We just want to give people an hour and a half of laughter and enjoyment, and using Shakespeare as that central theme creates both an obscure and entertaining lump of hilarity.”