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Getting Silly With Shakespeare

The SAU actors performing in the Complete Works of William Sharespeare are from left to right Max Moline, Jordan Webster-Moore and Jackson Green.

SAU student actors Max Moline, Jordan Webster-Moore and Jackson Green.

February 2017

Words commonly used to describe the works of William Shakespeare include: serious, scholarly and yes, soliloquy.

Not this time. 

The St. Ambrose Theatre department uses one unconventional words to describe its winter Shakespearian production: Silly.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) is a play written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. It became London's longest-running comedy and features three actors who perform all of Shakespeare's 37 plays in 90 minutes.

The SAU production will be performed Friday, Feb. 17, Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19, by three senior student actors: Max Moline, Jackson Green and Jordan Webster-Moore, under the guest direction of Brent Tubbs, a Quad City native who performed in the original touring production.

"It is a very interesting style of theatre, as it mixes scripted dialogue with elements of improv. There are moments in the show when the performers interact directly with the audience," Tubbs said.

Tubbs described the production as "silly" and said it contains a lot of slapstick humor. "I usually say it is rated PG-13 -- It is really good if you are 13. There is something in it for everyone," he said, adding no one should be intimidated by ‘Shakespeare' in the title. "This is a show basically written for three idiots who are trying to teach the audience all they know about Shakespeare in 90 minutes," Tubbs said.

"It is very fun, holds a lot of contemporary humor, contemporary references and local reference. It is a very funny show," Tubbs said, adding the SAU actors have actively embraced this alternative style of theatre.

On stage, the actors play themselves playing a wild ride of characters, and invite audience participation. They describe the show as busy, as each of them has more than 20 costume changes. They will enlist more than 20 props, including three foot long fencing foils and a "big dummy" that will be thrown around the stage. They decline to name other props that will be used, choosing instead to surprise the audience.

Moline said he enjoys this type of performance. "It is a good mix of improv and acting that you don't get to do on stage too much. For all of the times we go on stage and play intense characters, or deeply-laden characters, sometimes it is nice to go on stage and mess around as ourselves," he said.

The actors had only three weeks of rehearsal before opening night and said everything came together seamlessly due to their chemistry on stage and having Tubbs as the guest director.

"We've had to work on comedic timing quite a bit and the director is great at helping us with that, as he knows the show so well," Moline said.

"We are learning it from an original source," Webster-Moore said.

Tubbs joined the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 2005 and toured around the world, including places such as Holland and Belgium, to perform in the production. Four years ago, Tubbs moved back to the Quad-Cities. He still performs for the company and also performs locally. He most recently performed in The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) at the QC Theatre Workshop.

Daniel Rairdin-Hale, SAU associate professor and chair of theTheatre Department, said The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) was chosen as the winter production because it is a comedy. The Theatre Department performed Shakespeare's magical play, The Tempest, last fall and will perform the Bard's classic Richard III this spring.

Shakespeare400@SAU is the focus of this year's College of Arts &Sciences Academic Project. 

He asked Tubbs to guest direct. The student actors said they are thankful to have the opportunity to work with Tubbs, as he brings a new perspective and gives them opportunities for building skills and networking.

Rairdin-Hale described the current production as a mashing of all of Shakespeare's comedies, histories and tragedies into a comedic, high-energy romp. "If you know Shakespeare's plays, you will really find this funny. If you don't know Shakespeare's plays, you will still find it really funny and you might learn a little bit about Shakespeare, too," he said.

The student actors agreed. "I am not the biggest Shakespeare fan, but I still have had a blast with this show. You don't have to know anything about Shakespeare or understand any of his texts. The show is very easy to follow and understand what is going on," Webster-Moore said.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Feb. 18 - 19) and 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 19) in Galvin Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for faculty/staff/senior citizens, $8 for non-SAU students, $8 for groups, and free for SAU students with a university ID. The show contains adult content.

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