Video: Shakespeare does improv

Dr. David Charles, a theater professor here at Rollins, finally completes his Shakespeare-inspired improv show, which is ready to preview.

This upcoming Friday, prepare yourselves for a full-length, completely improvised main stage theatre show following the classical tradition of Shakespeare! This unique show, entitled The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare, was conceived by Theater Professor David Charles after many arduous months tweaking and working out the kinks of how exactly a two-act Shakespearean improv might be possible. Dr. Charles also has the distinct honor of directing his own creation, and could not be more excited about the show. I spoke with him about the production earlier in the semester, and I could hardly get a word in otherwise because he simply had so much to discuss. From what I gleaned, the performance will be extremely special, one that the student body—and other viewers—will be sure to remember.

Like most improv shows, The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare will occur within a certain pre-prescribed framework. April 23, 1564 marked the date of William Shakespeare’s birth. On this notorious day fifty-two years later (April 23, 1616), Shakespeare’s acting company, the King’s Men, gather eagerly outside of Shakespeare’s quarters to await the release of his newest comedy. A crowd has already filled their theater, also anxious to learn what new delights the Bard has in store for them. Alas, the King’s Men are not aware of the historical fact that April 23 1616, albeit Shakespeare’s birthday,is also the day of the celebrated playwright’s death.

Considering that the members of the audience have already paid to view state of the art dramaturgy, à la Shakespeare, the King’s Men must scramble to coordinate a comedy that will not disappoint. Similar to the familiar Rollins Improv Players performances of the Fred Stone Theatre, the King’s Men cry for suggestions from the audience on what should be included in their performance: names (Elizabethan or otherwise), locations, animals, events, and the like.

Unique to this play, the improvisors must also incorporate extensive prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s complete works into whatever the audience proposes. Actors and technicians of the show have been enrolled in a special Shakespeare study course under the drama department to prepare for the task, and are well versed in his language and themes. Of course, they are all also painfully aware of how to conform their words into iambic pentameter, Shakespeare’ poetic trademark, which should be a pleasure for appreciators of literature to witness.
Potential attendees of the performances can expect to experience many familiar Shakespearean archetypes: the highly stylized language, the witty (and dirty) puns, star-crossed lovers with sighs of “woe is me”, angsty philosophers, deception and disguises abound, ugly witches, court jesters, mighty kings, and even woodland fairies.
The King’s Men (James Blaisdell ‘17, Kathleen Capdesuner ‘16, Casey Casteel ‘17, Dr. David Charles, Caisey Cole ‘14, Alexandra Feliciano ‘14, Samantha Frontera ‘14, Savannah Halley ‘15, Grace Loescher ‘14, Ricci Prioletti ‘14, Kiki Sabater ‘14, Emily Steward ‘14, Taylor Sorrel ‘14, Isabella Ward ‘15, and Ethan White ‘14) feature a wide array of men and women who, portraying the authenticity of Elizabethan drama, will frequently be cross-dressing—and in some cases, double cross-dressing. The stage manager is Anastasia Herbert ‘14, and the entire cast and crew are quite excited for the Rollins community to see what they have come up with.

Even the technicians of the piece will be amusing and time-period appropriate. On stage with the actors at all times will be a musician accompanying the performance, as well as folly artist: an individual whose sole role is to create impromptu sound effects that certain scenes may suddenly call for. Most important and noteworthy of all, the audience members themselves will truly help shift the show’s direction through their suggestions and reactions. Each show will be a new journey, ready to take its viewers with it, wherever the wind shall decide to blow it.

The show opens this Friday, April 18 at 8 p.m., and runs through April 19 at 8 p.m., April 20 at 4 p.m., April 23-25 at 8 p.m., and April 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Your eyes are not lying to you; there will be a performance on Shakespeare’s actual birthday, keeping in line with the true spirit of the piece!

Dr. Charles hopes to recreate Shakespeare in a way where even the modern layman will end up laughing out loud. His vision is to drag Shakespeare into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. Ultimately, he hopes that by the end of the final curtain bows, the audience will have found The Lost Comedies to be very tongue-in-cheek, but also an authentic homage to Shakespeare.

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