In a time when many are focused on the future of America, the AU Players take a step backward and look at the history of America through their first performance of the semester, “The Complete History of America (Abridged).” Through skits, songs and mime, the six-member cast brought the audience an entirely irreverent and hilarious version of where the United States of America’s roots lie.
Beginning with Amerigo Vespucci and the discovery of the New World and taking the audience right up to recent events, such as Barack Obama’s visit to campus, the AU Players romp through hundreds of years of history in 90 minutes.
“It’s a show that engages in equal opportunity mockery,” said Roddy Flynn, executive director of AU Players and a senior in the School of Public Affairs. “It doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum you belong on ... ‘Complete History’ will find a way to make fun of you.”
Taking equal shots at liberals and conservatives, feminists and the founding fathers, “Complete History” aims to offend one and all.
When searching for a play, director Josh Sticklin, a senior in SPA and the College of Arts and Sciences, had three criteria in mind: comedy, satire and politics. His solution came in “Complete History,” originally performed by the three-member Reduced Shakespeare Company.
“It’s pretty frantic with six,” Sticklin said.
Stage manager Meredyth Pederson, a sophomore in CAS, said three people can sometimes “distract from the show.” Pederson said she supports Sticklin’s decision to open the roles to all genders because it creates a more well-rounded performance.
This blend of comedy and politics also led to a brand-new promotion collaboration between the AU Players, College Democrats and College Republicans. Flynn said the endorsement was more for “help in filling seats” as opposed to financial sponsorship - he feels their names alone on the poster will help in advertising because of AU’s political mindset.
“I think it’s great that two politically divergent campus organizations can come together to laugh,” he said. “That’s kind of the point of theater, isn’t it?”
Not only did the show create new collaborations between student organizations on campus, but it also provided new experiences for cast members. Noah Baron, a senior in the School of Communication, found himself amidst new material.
“I never took a history class,” Baron admitted. “I had to YouTube a lot of stuff.”
From the Civil War to the civil rights movement, only the most adept historian and pop culture guru could catch all of the references made throughout the play. The script encouraged each company to add in relevant jokes for their specific performances, Sticklin said. He bounced ideas off of the cast to create a show that was a group effort.
With a minimalist set and recurring props, the cast showcases their talent for in-your-face comedy. They spit water at the audience. They re-enact President Lincoln’s assassination, complete with exploding head. They pause the history lesson to give a shout-out to their “sponsor,” Nike. Intense dialogue and rambling monologues will keep the audience involved from the minutemen to Vietnam.
It might seem daunting to take hundreds of years of history and condense it into something someone would sit and watch, but the AU Players are up for the challenge. See their efforts Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. in Katzen 151 and on Feb. 2 and 3 at 2 p.m. in the Katzen Studio Theatre.