What comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare? For me, I remember struggling to read Romeo and Juliet in high school and wishing we could study anything else. However, when I spoke to Meridian High School’s theater director, Shawn Northrip, ahead of the play, my interest was piqued.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised]” was written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a comedy troupe composed of three men who aim to take long plays and turn them into shorter, funnier comedy pieces. This play in particular takes all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays and condenses them into 97 minutes.
The play was originally set to hit the stage at the high school in 2020, but given the events of that year, it was postponed until now.
To go about fitting all of these works into one short and sweet performance, multiple plays of similar themes are made into one play, the histories are simplified by being told in the form of a football game and many more interesting ways to adapt the plays and keep the audience engaged.
Modern elements can also be seen throughout the play, such as references to current pop culture, switching between modern and old English, Converse sneakers and more.
Rather than using extensive amounts of props and backdrops, the show instead utilized a projector to show different scenes behind the actors. This might not work for some plays, but given the fast-paced nature of this show, it worked wonderfully!
Meridian’s version of this play includes a cast of 30 students who play various roles in each play. Much of the performance involves the breaking of the fourth wall and interactions with the audience, including a call and response, bringing audience members on stage and other ways to keep the audience engaged and involved.
Given the large size of the ensemble, everyone had their chance to shine on stage. The play that stood out to me in particular was the final play in the show, Hamlet. Drew Miller and Phi Oeschger did an incredible job putting on this play not once, but four times, each getting faster and ending by performing the scene backwards.
Additionally, the majority of the cast and crew are made up entirely of students, including props, sound operating, light crew and more. I was blown away by the talent of both the actors on stage and everyone behind the scenes putting on this wonderful performance.
This play helped provide a new perspective on Shakespeare for me and much of the audience. While Shakespeare had previously frustrated me, this show turned it into something fast paced and funny that kept me engaged. I loved how the audience became a part of the show and everyone involved did an incredible job.