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Arts school students present fun take on Shakespeare plays

Suzanne Hirsch heard about the hilarity,but had not seen the play for the first time until a Wednesdaynight rehearsal.

    The Mississippi School for the Arts executive director heard theperformance was filled with “ridiculous, over-the-top” humor, andshe agreed that it is guaranteed to fill Lampton Auditorium withlaughter.

    Theater department seniors at MSA will perform “The Complete Worksof William Shakespeare (abridged),” a farce of the theater giant’smost successful plays, starting Thursday at 7 p.m.

    “It is a farce. They’re making fun of Shakespeare,” said Dr. RobertBrooks, director of MSA’s production.

    The play, which runs about 90 minutes, will also be performedFriday, and Saturday at the same time, with the last performance onSunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for students.

    Brooks explained the play was written about 25 years ago by threeindividuals who started out wanting to simply make themselves andothers laugh. Their interpretation caught on, and it has beenperformed ever since.

    “They’re called the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and they do otherfarces, too, with American history and the Bible and other things,”Brooks said. “I’ve seen it (the Complete Works) performed oncebefore, and this is my first time directing it.”

    Brooks, a full-time theater teacher for 13 years with five years atMSA, said one of the points of the production is for the actors toact like they are improvising on stage when they actually arenot.

    “The point is trying to perform all the plays in one night,” Brooksadded. “So there’s more time given to more major works. Sometimesthe only occurrence of one play is just a reference in a line. Butthat’s part of the humor of it.”

    Within in the original written play by the Reduced ShakespeareCompany is a preface by the creators encouraging anyone producingthe play to create their own humor and jokes while performing.

    “Playwrights don’t usually let you do that,” Brooks said. “Theyalso encourage you to update it with the times, so we’ll have a lotof reality television references, including ‘Jersey Shore,’ ‘Johnand Kate,’ and ‘Real Housewives.'”

    Brooks the rehearsals have been going really well, and he thinksthe students’ hard work and fun they have had with the productionhas made them eagerly awaiting opening night.

    “The students have had a lot of fun. They find their own humor toput into the plays,” Brooks said.

    The biggest challenge for Brooks and the actors was taking all thecharacters Shakespeare created and applying the roles to just 13students. Also, no more than three characters appear on stage atone time. However, he said these constraints only add to thehilarity of the end product.

    Brooks advised some of the actors interact with audience members atvarious points throughout the performance.

    “So anyone not wanting to be teased by the actors may not want tosit on the front row,” Brooks said.

    Hirsch said the students’ talents and humor is definitely worth thepublic coming out to see for themselves.

    “It should be fun evenings for people to come and enjoy affordableentertainment,” Hirsch said.