Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Shakespeare gets 'supernatural' spin from AU Rude Mechanicals

It takes a swift tongue and keen ears to take on the rapacious barb and wit of Shakespeare.

AU Rude Mechanicals, the University’s Shakespearean acting troupe (which derives its name from a group of characters in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), will premiere its annual variety show in their first performance of the season from Oct. 4 to 6 in Ward 1.

The show is composed of various vignettes of the Bard’s plays. This close-knit and jocular group of actors will perform supernatural-themed and abridged versions of “The Tempest,” “Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar.” These stripped-down versions of the plays allow for tensions between characters to roil with animosity, intensity and verve.

“Shakespeare speaks to the human condition with themes of fear, ambition, guilt,” said College of Arts and Science senior Jonelle Walker, the executive director of Rude Mechanicals.

Each production has been meticulously crafted. The vignette of “Julius Caesar,” which contains the most material grounded in reality, features an exuberant performance by CAS sophomore Andrea Parente as an exasperated and desperate Calpurnia begging Caesar to not go before the Senate.

“I wanted to make sure that the characters were taking initiative,” said Kate Kerns, a junior in the School of Public Affairs who directed the scene. “Everyone manages handling mystical scenes and characters being awed. It’s about the character’s choice.”

Two scenes from “Macbeth” were also staged, one featuring famed laughing and delirious witches delivering a prophecy to the zealous Macbeth. SPA sophomore Rebecca Day directed that scene, choosing to have the actors convulse and gestate with a creeping angst.

The second scene from “Macbeth” cast a gothic aesthetic for the scene where Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth. The rhetoric flies at a mile a minute as the cast ratchets up the melodrama with the ghostly, imposing apparition of Banquo roaming about the stage.

School of Communication senior Seth Rose, who has participated in 12 plays for Rude Mechanicals, had a tempestuous relationship with the material he directed and adapted from “The Tempest.”

“I both love and hate ‘The Tempest,’” Rose said. “I love it for its comedic and magical moments and hate it because it has a lot of filler.”

Rose chose to pare down the play to its most potent elements. He gave it a steampunk visual style through the costume design and Prospero’s mad scientist motivation.

Shakespeare may have brought these different people, styles and acts together, but it’s the intimate relationship of the theater troupe that pulls the show together. They all know each others’ various quirks and personality traits, according to Rose.

“We are really a family,” he said.

Tickets for “Supernatural Shakespeare” will be sold at the door or in advance through Eventbrite.

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