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The City Journals

Shakespeare ‘smushed’

Feb 27, 2017 01:12PM ● By Travis Barton

Matt Oviatt, Brenda Dang and Blake London will be performing in the Midvale Arts Council’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” at 7:30 p.m. at 695 W. Center Street on March 3, 4, 6, 10 and 11. (Midvale Arts Council)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]
William Shakespeare’s most famous play is coming to Midvale, along with his other 36.
Midvale Arts Council will present “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” at the Midvale Performing Arts Center on March 3, 4, 6, 10 and 11. The show sees three actors (Wendy Dang, Blake London and Matt Oviatt) take the audience on a modernized ride through all of Shakespeare’s plays reenacting and satirizing his famous work.
“I’ve seen it three times before and I just absolutely love it. It’s not a show you see done a lot in community theatre and when I saw that they were doing it I leapt at the chance,” London said.
It is a play the cast and crew hope welcomes people to Shakespeare.
“Everybody thinks of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Hamlet,’ two of the deepest tragedies. But he has so many comedies and in our show we took all of them and smushed them all into one and its great,” said Candice Jorgensen, the play’s director.
The play, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, sees all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays acted out in 97 minutes. But it’s not what you might typically expect from a Shakespeare story.
“Hopefully, the takeaway for the audience is that Shakespeare is accessible, Shakespeare isn’t old and boring. It is wild and crazy, that it’s really a ton of fun to watch,” Oviatt said.
Featuring a rap number during Othello, a cooking show for Titus Andronicus and one section where they enact a play in reverse; the actors playfully modernize all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies and histories.
“It’ll be nice to expose the audience to the shows that aren’t very popular like the histories…[those] will be really exciting to make fun and enjoyable,” Dang said of what is possibly the most physically active part of the show.
The cast also voiced their excitement about the audience interaction that takes place.
“It’s a little different for me, a different energy interacting with audience members, but it is a lot of fun cause that’s where the most exciting, engaging parts of the show are,” Oviatt, a freshman at UVU, said.
Much of the show rests on the shoulders of the three actors and their onstage chemistry. It was something Jorgensen was looking for and knew she had when all three rapped the Othello section at the callback audition.
“It was as if they had been rehearsing it forever, they just stepped right in and got the beat of it and it all connected,” Jorgensen said. “The moment the three of them stepped together I leaned over to [production assistant] Kristen [Thelen] and said, ‘I think that’s my cast.’”
The actors noticed the chemistry as well.
“That was like the bonding experience we had at auditions. We were like, ‘wow we really got this going,’…it just works together, it’s beautiful,” Dang said. 
For Jorgensen, this play is one of her favorites. So much so that she owns a DVD and copy of the script in addition to seeing it various times. 
“This is my number one play that I want to direct so it’s like a dream come true. A dream show with my dream cast,” Jorgensen said.
With everyone in the show a self-proclaimed lover of Shakespeare, Thelen said you can feel that passion onstage.
“There’s an enthusiasm about the actors and that comes through on the show. So, they’re having a good time on stage, you’re going to have a good time as an audience…I think [they’re] rock stars,” she said.
In a play where the three actors play multiple roles (including themselves), not only are there “crazy costume changes,” but it requires lots of preparation—be it inhabiting the various characters or the challenging dialogue.
“When it’s iambic pentameter, when it’s vocabulary you don’t use on (a) daily (basis) it’s a little more difficult,” Dang said.
London, who plays Romeo and Julius Caesar among others, said it is both easy and difficult to play so many characters.
“I’m trying to make sure each character is different so it’s clear this is one character and this is different by the way I talk, the way I stand, the way I move,” London said. “But that’s part of the fun is getting to be 15 different people instead of just one.”
Oviatt, who heard about this audition two hours before it happened, said he tries to use a different voice for each person he plays, especially his female roles. Juliet, being a teenager, carries what Oviatt described as a Valley girl dialect while Ophelia is flighty with a high-pitched, British accent.
For Dang, she loves the characters she gets to play. “I get to play the ones I’ve always wanted to play that I, as a female and ethnic actress, would never be cast as—Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello or Titus Andronicus,” she said.
Jorgensen said there’s many messages in the show that she hopes people focus on how they pertain to their lives.
“And if they don’t go that deep into the performance, I hope they at least are just very, very entertained,” she said.