by Carole Verona
Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield — authors of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” — posted this message about the play on their Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) web page:
“Warning! This show is a high-speed roller-coaster type condensation of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and is not recommended for people with heart ailments, bladder problems, inner-ear disorders, outer-ear disorders, Shakespearean scholars, degrees in Elizabethan history and/or people inclined to motion sickness. The RSC cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers!”
Despite the warning, Mt. Airy resident Mariangela Saavedra, Casabuena Cultural Productions, is producing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) on Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8, 8 p.m., at the Allens Lane Art Center. Yes, that’s right. Here is your chance to experience all 37 Shakespeare plays — comedies, tragedies, and histories — in 97 minutes.
The play was written for three actors, so when Saavedra read the script she immediately thought of three local thespians: Kyle Paul Dandridge, of Chestnut Hill; Brian Weiser, of Lawndale; and Chris Lepore, of Germantown.
“Knowing them and having seen each of them in different kinds of performances, I just started interchanging them in my mind,” she said. “I knew that each one could do any of the roles; I just had to decide which actor would be funnier in which part. And since the show is designed to let the actors apply local topical humor into the script, all three have been priceless to me because I am a newbie to Philly and don’t know too much about its history and culture.”
Brian Weiser portrayed Cléante in “Tartuffe” at The Stagecrafters Theater. “Because he brought a very effeminate quality to that character, I thought he should predominately play all of the girl parts,” she said. Weiser has also been seen at Stagecrafters in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” and “The Violet Hour.”
“Kyle Paul Dandridge has a great sort of announcer’s voice, so he should be the character who opens and ends the show and does the intermission announcement,” she added. He has appeared in many productions at Allens Lane and Stagecrafters. He has also participated in three Readers’ Theater shows at Stagecrafters and directed one.
“When I met Chris Lepore 20 years ago,” said Saavedra, “he was kind of a mentor to me because he had already been through theater school, and I was just graduating from high school. We were working at a dinner theater together, and he was talking in a very elevated manner about theater. So when I read the script, I thought he should be the one who plays the passionate, eminent Shakespearean scholar. Plus his character gets to play Hamlet, which is every actor’s dream.”
Saavedra, 39, is originally from the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area. Her father, Pat Anthony, was an actor who got her involved in theater when she was 13. She received a bachelor’s degree in acting and directing from Marshall University in West Virginia in 1999. She then went to Wilmington, North Carolina, to work in film, television, and theater. “I realized then that film and television are very different art forms and that I’m more suited to theater,” she said. Since coming to Philly in 2009, she has stage-managed shows for Stagecrafters (“The Fantasticks” in 2010) and Allens Lane (“Wonder of the World” in 2012).
Eric Gershenow, Saavedra’s husband, wrote the original music for this production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” and he will perform at an event for VIP ticket holders prior to the Saturday evening show.
Saavedra’s stepson, Halin Hegamyer-Gershenow, 13, asked if he could be involved backstage. “His request got me thinking about how I could get other kids involved. Halin’s best friend, Jared Taylor, 12, has been recruited as prop boy, and his younger sister, Lia Taylor, 8, will usher. Eight-year-old twins Zoey and Hayden Lepore will wear Shakespearian costumes and serve as ushers. Steven Lepore, 15, will operate the light board.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, go to completeworksws-ccp.brownpapertickets.com.