Shakespeare shake-up at Tupelo High School

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

The latest Tupelo High School Theatre production is a remix, if you will.
The students are presenting “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised),” which combines all of the Bard’s plays – from histories like “King Henry VIII” to tragedies like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Othello” to comedies like “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Comedy of Errors” – into one, with a few changes. Hence the two words in parentheses after the title – “abridged” and “revised.”
“We’re doing all 37 plays in an hour and a half,” said director Allana Austin.
The play hits the major plot points, but things don’t happen exactly as Shakespeare intended.
For example, the famous “Romeo and Juliet” balcony scene is performed with Juliet riding piggyback on one of the show’s hosts; “Othello” is told in a rap; and many of the histories are turned into football games.
The story of “Titus Andronicus” is a bloody, violent tale of a man who kills his enemy and cooks his remains into a pie. For the THS play’s purposes, “Titus” – played by junior Hamilton Lence – is turned into a cooking show.
“It’s a happy, nonchalant cooking show. ‘Now I shall grind your bones – and bake them at about 350 degrees,’” Lence said, laughing. “It’s great fun.”
Lence said Shakespeare wrote for his audience, even with violent plays like “Titus,” just the way movie-makers write for audiences today.
Katelyn Stieg, a freshman, is one of the Comedy players.
“We turn the 16 comedies into one- or two-minute segments,” she said. “But it’s not as funny as the tragedies, surprisingly.”
Both students said the play has helped them have a better understanding of Shakespeare when they read his work in their English classes.
“Before I didn’t know what he meant, with all of the language, but now I get it in a comedic way,” Stieg said.
The plays-within-a-play include plenty of references to pop culture like “Twilight” and Weight Watchers, which makes the work more relatable.
Austin invites anyone who’s a fan of Shakespeare’s work to check out this version to gain new insight.
“It’s a fun play,” she said. ‘It’s very energetic, and very irreverent toward Mr. Shakespeare.”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

Dim The Lights
WHAT: Tupelo High School Theatre presents “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)”

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

WHERE: Fine Arts Auditorium on THS campus

COST: $5

INFO: (662) 840-1841

EXTRA: Knick-Knacks for Nebraska, a fundraiser for Thespian Troupe 1949, will be at 6:45 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and will feature light hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Tickets are $5.