Three actors charged through 37 Shakespeare plays in two hours on June 13 and will continue to do so until the end of the month in Theatre 101.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” is a theater performance presented by the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts & Cinema as part of the Summer Arts Festival.
According to the School of Performing Arts & Cinema website, this play was the longest-running production in the West End at the Criterion Theatre in London, England.
Director Gregory Justice, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Cinema, said the show sold out every night in the 2011 production of the play, which he also directed.
Justice said that changes are constantly being made to the script, which is encouraged by the writers. He said the cast and crew are also a part of the creative process.
Patrick Mahaney joined recent Tech graduates Stephanie Ramsey and Jason Tyler Tolbert to complete the cast two weeks before the show. Mahaney said he was worried about having limited time to learn the part.
“I had awesome cast mates and crew, so learning this show in two weeks was much less than the Olympic feat that everyone is telling me,” Mahaney said.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” not only challenges the actors to learn their roles but to also bring their characters to life beyond what is scripted. Justice said he needed actors who were adaptable to improvisation.
One reason the actors need to be flexible is during the play they open the doors that lead from the stage to the amphitheatre behind Theatre 101. This attracts more audience members and reveals any activities occurring outside.
“When we open the doors, you never know what’s going on out there,” Justice said. “They have to go with the flow, which would scare me to death.”
Community members, Nathan Sharp and his daughters, were drawn to the stage by a prop that was flung outside the open doors. Sharp and his daughters joined the audience, watching the show from the amphitheatre outside. Sharp said they began watching because it looked like fun.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen every night,” Justice said. “That’s why when I cast this, I was looking for actors that were skilled at improv, and all three of the actors are.”
Another improvisation aspect of the show is the audience is invited to be an active part of the experience.
One audience member who participated was Todd Guill. He was brought on stage during the June 15 show to play in the balcony part of the “Romeo & Juliet” section. Guill was originally casted for the play but was unable to take time from work for the production.
The remaining show dates are June 21-23 and 27-30. The box office opens at 5:15 p.m. before each show. Tickets are free and given on a first come, first serve basis.