Thirty-seven of Shakepeare’s plays in ninety-seven minutes? Sounds like an impossibly mad task for anyone to undertake. But if you’re David C Jones and the cast of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised), it’s all in an evening’s work.
Set to play later this month, this newly updated version (now with the word ‘revised’ added to its title) is a sort of coming home for one Vancouver’s busiest gay actor, filmmaker, writer, comedian, improviser and director. Having been part of the original version of the play as an actor back in 1998, David C Jones returns to where it all started, the Jericho Arts Centre.
“It is kind of neat to be back where it all started,” said Jones. “Originally we were planning to do it as dinner theatre but when that fell through I went back to Jericho and they said yes.”
Having performed in the show previously, Jones says this was his opportunity to look at it from a director’s point-of-view. He also confessed that the idea of actually being in the show again terrified him.
“I’m too old to do it now,” he laughed. “It is exhausting, with the constant changes, all that running around on stage for 97 minutes. It is a break-neck comedy that these younger actors can endure.”
Jones also looked at it as a challenge to come up with new bits that hadn’t been done in the previous version plus, with the updated script just released on April 1st, it was perfect timing when he was approached to do it.
“One of my former students from the Vancouver Film School [David Ortynsky] wanted to do the show,” explained Jones. “He had performed in it as a community theatre project and wanted to use the show as his professional coming out here in Vancouver as a VFS graduate.”
Joining Ortynsky on stage are Robin Jung and Sean Parsons, the 2010 recipient of the Vancouver Ovation award, which recognizes musical theatre achievement in the Lower Mainland, for best newcomer.
But more than just Ortynsky’s coming out (and no, not that kind of coming out as Jones tells us he is straight), it is also a coming out of sorts for the Bob Loblaw Queer Arts Society, the same people that bring the Tops and Bottoms queer improv to the J Lounge every Monday night. As the first non-improv show produced by the group, Jones is also very excited that it is an official Partner in Pride event.
And if the idea of 37 Shakespeare’s plays sounds a bit daunting, Jones says not to worry as the play is accessible to both those with no experience with Shakespeare and Shakespeare buffs alike.
“It is as if the writers cut out all the boring bits from Shakespeare’s plays after only reading half the plays themselves,” said Jones. “They then condensed what they did read and then added some stuff to make it relevant to a modern audience. There is still a lot there for those familiar with the Bard, but you won’t get lost if you don’t know your Shakespeare.”
With Hamlet being performed backwards, Othello as a rap and Titus Andronicus turned into a cooking show, Jones says The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised) has a fresh comedic take and new jokes that he hopes will not only attract a whole new generation but surprise those that have seen it before.
Confident that history will also repeat itself as it did in 1998 with a sold out run, Jones says if you wait to buy tickets you may be disappointed.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)
Jericho Arts Centre, 675 Discovery Street, Vancouver
19 – 30 July 2011
An uproarious summer comedy directed by David C. Jones and starring David Ortynsky, Robin Jung and Sean Parsons. July 19th to 30th at the Jericho Arts Centre. Tickets are $20 ($15 concession) and can be purchased online or by phoning 604- 224-8007 Ext 3.
Visit http://www.jerichoartscentre.com for more information.