The Hippo


Jul 20, 2019








The Peacock Players present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]. Courtesy photo.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]

Where: Court Street Theater, 14 Court St., Nashua 
When: Friday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 10, 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m. 
Tickets: $15 to $19 for adults, $12 to $17 for students and seniors 
More info:

Speed it up
Peacock Players do The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

By Angie Sykeny

 The Peacock Players youth theater is taking on Shakespeare in a new way with its production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged], opening Friday, Feb. 9, at the Court Street Theater in Nashua. 

The play is a comedy that parodies Shakespeare’s plays by covering all 37 of them in 97 minutes. It was written by former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, and was first performed in 1987.  
“I haven’t seen many youth theaters do it,” Director Andrea Underhill said. “It’s done in a very fast-paced, high-energy, chaotic manner and requires the actors to move quickly. It’s a hard show to do, but I think it’s one worth doing.” 
The Complete Works eliminates the fourth wall entirely and relies on audience participation and improvisation by the actors. At one point, the audience is asked to help portray the various parts of Hamlet’s psyche. 
Many of the actors are members of the Peacock Players’ youth improv comedy troupe Technical Difficulties, where they’ve learned techniques for improvisation and audience interaction. 
“Occasionally we have a mainstage show that allows [kids in the improv troupe] to use the exercises they practice, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare really does that,” said Peacock Players Artistic Director Keith Weirich, who also directs Technical Difficulties. “They know how to develop a rapport with the audience and have the ability to go in whatever direction the audience chooses to go.” 
The playwrights have granted permission for adaptations of the play and challenge theater companies to put their own spin on it and add new, topical references to the script to keep it fresh. The biggest change the Peacock Players made is the size of the cast; their production will feature 11 actors ages 15 to 17, while the play is traditionally performed with three actors. 
“We have such a wealth of talent here and wanted to give more kids the opportunity,” Weirich said. “The key in casting isn’t the number of actors. It’s about putting together a company that has great chemistry and great improv ability, and I think we hit the nail on the head with the kids that we chose.” 
Still, Underhill said, it’s a small cast relative to most youth theater productions, which are often focused on giving as many kids as possible the opportunity to perform. The Complete Works provides a unique experience for young actors who are serious about theater and improv to refine their skills and spend more time on stage.  
“In a musical [with a large cast], there are many characters who will never rehearse together and never be on stage together at any point in the show,” Underhill said. “[The Complete Works] is far from that. It’s more intimate, and that intimacy allows the actors to learn from one another and work together to tell the story visually and verbally.” 
Adding to the humor of the play is the juxtaposition of Elizabethan and modern-day elements. The actors will, for example, don the frilly collared shirts you’d expect to see in a Shakespeare play, but they’re paired with Converse sneakers, and they wield blatantly unrealistic props like retractable daggers and rubber chickens. 
The Complete Works allows the Peacock Players to expose kids to the works of Shakespeare, as any “responsible educational theater” should, Weirich said, in a way that’s accessible and not intimidating.
“A lot of people are turned off to Shakespeare, maybe because they think they’ve suffered through it enough in their high school English class, but this play makes it fun to experience his full anthology of work,” he said. “Not everyone wants to sit through four hours of Hamlet, but watching Hamlet performed in 30 seconds is wildly entertaining.” 

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