William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, and the theater students at San Marcos High School are doing all of them in just over an hour and a half.
Last night San Marcos High School Theater opened it’s fall production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” which its students will be performing six more times over the course of a week.
Performed in an on-stage replica of London’s Globe Theatre, the show condenses the Shakespearean works into a variety of different performance styles. Beginning with fully staged sections of “Romeo and Juliet,” the show then compresses Mr. Shakespeare’s comedies into a reader’s theater section, packs his tragedies into a section of raps, presents his histories in the form of a football game, and tells the story of “Hamlet” sped up with backwards talking.
Penned by writers Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, the show’s abundance of characters was originally performed with just three actors. When San Marcos theater director Shannon Saleh read the play, she immediately thought it was easily adaptable for a full cast. Even with 25 actors, Ms. Saleh said the show’s hundred-plus characters allow her students to play many roles.
“It’s such a great way for everybody to have multiple roles and showcase a lot of different types of actors,” she said.
Maggie Mortensen, a 17-year-old senior, appears in the show as a narrator, a cheerleader during the historical football game, a rapper reciting the tragedy of “Othello,” and as Laertes in “Hamlet.” She called “Hamlet” her personal favorite of the show’s sections because of her onstage chemistry with fellow actor Roz Borah in the titular role, and because of how melodramatically she’s allowed to play her character.
“The energy is really fun during ‘Hamlet’ and Laertes, I’m playing him very flamboyantly,” she said.
Because “Shakespeare Abridged” includes an improvised section involving audience participation, Ms. Saleh wanted the production to have an interactive stage setting similar to a black box theater. During a discussion with set designer Jonathan Mitchell, Ms. Saleh asked him if he could convert the auditorium’s stage into a circular seating area surrounding a small stage, similar to London’s Globe Theatre. As the director recalled, Mr. Mitchell had an even bigger idea than that.
“He said, ‘How about we just build the Globe?’ And I was like, ‘That sounds great. Do you know how to do that?’ And that’s what we’ve been doing for three months,” Ms. Saleh said.
For senior Eva Moschitto, 17, playing off of the audience is the best aspect of the show and a massive part of her role. Though she appears as Bernardo in “Hamlet,” most of the time she stars as a show host who speaks to the crowd and at one point even brings audience members onto the stage.
She said of these sections, “It’s very chaotic, but it’s also exciting and I think that’s one of the parts when the audience realizes that they can have a part in theater too.”
When asked if off-the-cuff audience interaction is nerve-wracking, Ms. Moschitto said she and her castmates have rehearsed certain scenarios that can arise from crowd participation. This gives the show enough unpredictability to be exciting, while giving the actors the preparedness they need.
“It is improv, but it’s also taken into account in advance,” she said.
As for Ms. Saleh’s favorite part of the show, she has no shortage.
“There’re several sections that I think are awesome go-to sections. … I think the rap is a really unique way to do it and it’s all girls doing the rap so I think that’s a super fun thing, too,” she said.
She added, “And I like the Hamlet faster, fasters, and backwards too because that’s just a stupid way to do a play and it’s so good.”
San Marcos High School Theatre will perform its second night of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” tonight at 7 p.m. in the San Marcos High School auditorium, 4750 Hollister Ave. Additional performances will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 3, 7 p.m. Nov. 7, 7 p.m. Nov. 8, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 9. Tickets can be purchased online at www.smhstheaterdept.com.