70 minutes of Shakespeare

Anne Aaker

Usually, William Shakespeare is not for the faint of heart. However, this weekend brings the opening of Emily Meranda’s senior project, titled “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
In 70 minutes, Meranda and her cast of five will put on all 36 of Shakespeare’s plays — a feat that everyone can appreciate. Even more alluring is the promise of humor in every scene.
“We’ve laughed for five weeks,” Meranda said of the rehearsals. “The show is full of fun — it’s clever, witty, and surprising.”
Each play is presented in “a way Shakespeare would never have dreamt of,” said Meranda. For example, “Othello” will be performed as a rap, while “Titus Andronicus” is presented as a cooking show.
Each scene in the show is a different length. The longest one is 20 minutes long, while the shortest clocks in at a mere 30 seconds.
Undertaking the task of fitting all of Shakespeare’s plays into 70 minutes might seem daunting, but Meranda and her cast all agreed that despite the five-week time crunch, the energy of the show never waned.
Senior theater major Maria Giere, who is part of the cast, explained that part of that energy comes from the liberty that the show encourages. “The show is scripted, but also created by the cast,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of ownership.”
The freedom of theater seems to have been part of what Meranda had in mind for this show. Her cast includes theater majors Giere, Jem Herron and Chad Bay, but also stars geology major Claire Gannon and religious studies major Dave Lofstrom.
Meranda’s goal was to encourage a crossover between theater and non-theater students. “It’s all about communication,” she said. “This show is accessible to everyone.”
Lofstrom, a senior, and junior Gannon were both approached by Meranda and asked to take part in the show.
“It was a little intimidating at first,” said Gannon. “The other people in the show are so talented!”
However, the camaraderie of the cast quickly eased any intimidation. As Lofstrom noted, “[The cast] has fallen into a nice sync during rehearsals.”
That sense of being in sync will be evident throughout the production. The seamless improvisation and level of communication between the cast makes their chemistry onstage very clear.
The high points for the cast include the humor that weaves through every scene. “It’s better than a roller coaster ride,” Giere said. “We’re respecting what [Shakespeare] wrote but having fun at the same time.”
Above all, this production is full of fun. As Meranda commented, “The show includes the tragedies and the comedies, but there’s humor in all of it — [it highlights] the power of laughter.”
Meranda’s senior project will be performed tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in Cloak Theatre. Take 70 minutes to go out to a night at the theatre — this is a Shakespeare production even the faint of heart will enjoy.