IUPUI’s Spring Play, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”

IUPUI’s Liberal Arts presents this year's spring play “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” This rib-tickling and fast-paced rendition of Shakespeare's works will provide viewers with slapstick humor, tragicomedies, a Prince reference (R.I.P.), and leave you wondering, “Was Juliet really that manly?”

This farce was written in 1987 by three improvers portraying Shakespeare's 37 plays in a shortened, hilariously sarcastic script.

Callie Hartz, acting/directing professor at IUPUI, chose to direct “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” after successfully directing “All in the Timing” last spring, the first communication studies production IUPUI has seen in over 20 years. 

Under Hartz’s direction, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” allows student actors to take a more entertaining approach to Shakespeare's subject matter. Taylor Calhoun, communications studies major at IUPUI, took acting classes under Hartz and loved it so much that she decided to pursue a certificate in theatre, which eventually led to becoming this year's assistant director.

“This is really my first theatre experience, so it’s been pretty crazy,” Calhoun said. “But it’s a lot of fun and I’ve had such a good time.”

Calhoun assists Hartz with a plethora of duties, including, stage directing, running the light board, making creative decisions, and helping choose the cast.

Calhoun said, “You don’t necessarily have to be good at acting. Callie and I make our casting decisions based on how coachable you are and by how much effort is put into an audition.”

Though each actor is worth noting, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a select few to discuss their casting in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”

Group Interview with IUPUI students, Malik Oudghiri, Jessica Winarski, Charles Bissey, Jake Ohler, and Jessica Meister.

What made you decide to audition for “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”?

Malik Oudghiri: I have been doing theatre since middle school, where I went on to do it in high school, and wanted to carry that on into college.

Jessica Winarski: I always had an interest in acting, but my high school theatre program was really competitive. I love Shakespeare, so when I heard about this year's spring play, I decided to try out.

Charles Bissey: I was always involved in theatre and show choir in high school and was actually in the spring play last year. I liked it enough that I auditioned again.

Jake Ohler: I auditioned because two members I performed with last year told me they were trying out, and that they wanted me to as well, so I did!

Jessica Meister: I’ve had a love for theatre since I was a baby basically, and lately I’ve been focusing on directing, writing, and theatre administrator stuff. It had been since high school that I’d actually acted, so I saw the opportunity and went for it!

What characters do you play?

MO: I play the Prince in Romeo and Juliet and a few ensemble characters.

JW: I am the narrator for Romeo and Juliet as well a bunch of ensemble characters.

CB: I play a lot of ensemble, Sampson, Caesar, and Polonius.

JO: I play Juliet and Hamlet.

JM: I do a lot of ensemble and other random parts. I’m also Queen Gertrude in Hamlet.

What are some things you did to prepare for your role(s)?

MO: I play the Prince in Romeo and Juliet, and the joke is that I actually act like the singer Prince. I had to go to YouTube and look up a bunch of his videos so I could make sure I got it right.

JW: I had to play around with and practice a few different accents. Throughout the course of the play I do an English accent, a “valley girl” accent, and then something like a hillbilly trucker accent.

CB:  Having multiple roles, you have to practice differentiating how to act like that character, doing different voices, and just the different ways of carrying yourself so you can act the part.

JO: I prepared by procrastinating immensely! I’ve never done a play where I’ve had this many lines, so I really put it off and then stress crammed in the last few weeks leading up to the shows.

JM: Comedy has never been my strong suit, so I met with a local stand-up comedian to help me learn timing and what-not. I also had a serious monologue in Hamlet where I recite the “What A Piece of Work is Man” speech, so I went online and found famous film versions of different actors like Kenneth Branagh and Sir Laurence Olivier, and saw how they did the piece.

In conducting this interview, and attending Thursday's dress rehearsal, the chemistry between these castmates is more than evident.

“One of the biggest reasons I love doing plays so much is because you make great friends,” Oudghiri said. "Backstage we’re always joking around, it's that bonding that I personally love."

Love or hate Shakespeare, this is a free production definitely worth seeing. Join the cast and crew in Cavanaugh Hall, room 003 on Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 24 at 2:30 p.m.. Tickets are currently sold out, but there will be first-come, first-served open seating to walk-ins.