BAR HARBOR — When three actors perform portions of 20-plus plays and their hundreds of characters in only about an hour and a half, it’s a whirlwind, a very funny whirlwind. The performance includes lots of wigs, dramatic deaths, a cooking show and even a football game.
Three intrepid Mount Desert Island High School students take on that challenge this weekend, performing “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Higgins-Demas Theater.
The play was written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield and was first performed in 1987 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The three were former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
The three playwrights’ names appear in the script as character names, but MDI Production Director Chris Dougherty said “you’re supposed to replace their names with your own cast members’ names.” Cast members Desmond Reifsnyder, Sammie Park and Pierce Vincenty use their real names, though Dougherty cast them partly based on the personalities of the playwrights/characters.
“Every one of those guys has their own personality, then they become the Shakespearean characters,” she said. “So when I was casting, I was looking at that as well. The way it worked out, Desmond seems to be playing most of the women. And Sammie’s playing Hamlet.”
Although all the students at MDI High read Shakespeare in class, Dougherty said, MDI Drama hasn’t staged a Shakespeare play in a long time. Choosing this play “seemed like a really nice way to get these students the opportunity to do some scene work from Shakespeare. It’s a fun way to be playing Shakespeare without all of the demands that Shakespeare puts on an actor if you’re doing an entire play.”
“Complete Works,” with its goofy approach, running around and funny wigs, gives the students and audience a chance to “browse” through the Shakespearean canon, she said.
“Most of them don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time talking about Shakespeare – because it never comes up. It barely comes up in college. Doing this show, you get to find out, ‘Oh, there’s this play called Titus Andronicus! Oh my word!’”
Humor is essential to making the plays accessible, she said. “It’s a funny way to get through Shakespeare, because I think a lot of people are intimidated by it.
“Maybe they had a terrible experience with it in eighth grade when they all had to read ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and they thought, ‘Just kill me now.’”
“But when you’re running around and being funny with these serious lines, it actually makes them make more sense. It becomes accessible, and maybe that’s enough to open the door so that you can say, maybe even straight, it’s accessible.”
Marilee Marchese designed the costumes. Grey Burkart and Peter Miller supervised a team of student designers working on the set, lighting and props.
Because rock legend Prince died midway through their rehearsal period, Dougherty said this production has a special tribute to him built in.
Tickets are available at the door.