Shakespeare for the Masses

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My friend Chelsea McCarthy and I adapt Shakespeare plays to make them enjoyable for people-who-don’t-enjoy-Shakespeare. If you’re an educator or a theatre-seeking-a-new-approach-to-the-Bard, here’s what we do at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, and you if like the sound of what follows, please write us at shakespeare4masses@gmail.com.

We’re not great at self-promotion, but luckily the lovely and talented Marcia Rock is, so here’s a video she made about us:

Shakespeare for the Masses Video

Chelsea (pictured, with Mac Young) and I pare any given script to be about an hour long, with a sardonic/cheeky narrator who sets the tone, and helps relay the plot (given how much is cut). There are no costumes, just hats and crowns to help clarifying multicasting. There are no sets or scenery, and minimal props (rings, letters, swords, Yorick’s skull, etc). With each script, we rehearse for 4-5 hours then perform the show twice, free of charge. It’s done script-in-hand but there’s a lot of physical action, partly because we’ve learned to rely on narrated dumbshows to help tell the story. We also shamelessly use devices and gimmicks (the casket scenes in Merchant of Venice become a game show, etc.) Sometimes there’s audience participation (voting on how Measure For Measure ‘really’ ends, etc.) The point is to keep the juiciest, most gripping scenes/speeches/moments/fights, and make all the rest of it as quick and funny as possible.

In seven seasons we’ve done about two-thirds of the canon. Our actors range from full-time pros with Vineyard connections to local high school students, and the core group is pretty tight. People come up to us in grocery stores and coffee shops – people who don’t look like they’d ever go to the theatre, let alone to see Shakespeare –  to tell us how much they loved our last show, and ask us when we’re doing our next one. If we had a dollar for every time someone asked us why we didn’t take it into the school system, we’d have the budget to take it into the school system.

The response we’ve gotten from audiences – especially educators and visiting actors/directors – has convinced us the scripts should be serving a wider audience. We’d love to share them with you. If you’re interested in checking them out, write me: shakespeare4masses@gmail.com You will not find a more entertaining way to turn students and Bardophobics into Bardophiles.