Condensed Shakespeare brings big laughs

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June 24th, 2011

Omaha, NE – The Nebraska Shakespeare Festival is celebrating its 25th year of bringing one of theater’s most beloved playwrights to the masses with “Shakespeare on the Green.” This year, they’re offering a condensed version of some of the greats as a precursor to their featured plays.

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Performing Shakespeare is admittedly hard enough. And when you throw in a participating audience and a stopwatch set on just two minutes, things get just get a little more complicated…and really funny.

The actors and actresses have little time to deliver big laughs while remaining true to the late playwright Shakespeare, but they manage with over-the-top characters and well-choreographed physical comedy.

Shakespeare in Two Minutes is basically where we take a whole Shakespeare play, and we boil it down into the most important plot points of it, and we use only the language of Shakespeare,” said actor Dan Chevalier.

Actor Dan Chevalier (far right), said Shakespeare in Two Minutes remains true to Shakespeare's language. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

Chevalier doesn’t seem fazed by the task of performing under the tight deadline of two minutes. I caught him as he got off-stage after performing 13 condensed Shakespeare plays in a preview of Shakespeare in Two Minutes last Sunday. The audience called out plays and six young actors sprung into action grabbing few props and using ingenious comedy, all to the delight of their audience.

Director and writer Moira Mangiameli began Shakespeare in Two Minutes ten years ago for high school students using Romeo & Juliet.

“The audience loves these, they just love them. They get so excited,” said Mangiameli. “They love being a part of it because they get to scream out what they want to see. They really feel like they’re a part of it. It’s farce, it’s slap-stick, it’s zany, it’s like we’re doing cartoons.”

Shakespeare in Two Minutes balances slap-stick with traditional recitation. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

The audience may be more forgiving of actors going over the allotted 120 seconds. Mangiameli said push-ups are in order for each second the play runs over.

“What’s wonderful about the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival is that people that are not familiar with them can come and see Shakespeare the way it was meant to be, which is not read in English class, it’s seen performed especially in such a great space as this,” said Mangiamelli.

Shakespeare in Two Minutes will run before each performance of this year’s featured plays– A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet for the next three weekends. Shakespeare on the Green, as always, will be found in Elmwood Park, just south of UNO’s Bell Tower.

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