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The Bard in brief: Friends of Drake Arts present 'Shakespeare (Abridged)'

August 31, 2006

A trio of Drake faculty and alumni will present all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays - in less than two hours - in performances on Sept. 8 and 9.


Led by John Burney, dean of the Drake College of Arts and Sciences, the group of ambitious thespians will modernize, summarize and abridge the Bard's scripts while bringing life to "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)."

First performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987, the show is less a comedy of errors than one of omission as the group brazenly cuts scripts to reveal the silliness at the heart of Shakespeare's plays.

"Othello" is presented in the form of a rap song. A number of comedies are packed into a game of American football.

As for "Titus Andronicus," Burney says, "It's a bloodbath. We play it as a cooking show."

The play has received critical acclaim since its debut. A critic for "The Tonight Show" once wrote, "If you like Shakespeare, you'll like this show. If you hate Shakespeare, you'll love this show."

Burney, who has acted in the play twice before, recruited a duo of Drake alumni to help him execute the fast-paced and sometimes slapstick performance.

Tom Geraty, who serves on the executive committee of Friends of Drake Arts, has acted in numerous plays in Chicago and Des Moines.

Joseph Leonardi, a Des Moines native who acted for many years in San Francisco, founded the Central Iowa Repertory Theater in Des Moines.

Performances, sponsored by Friends of Drake Arts, will start at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 and 9 in Drake's Sheslow Auditorium in Old Main, 2507 University Ave. Tickets are $20 and all student tickets are $5. Proceeds go to support fine arts programming at Drake. For tickets, call the Drake Fine Arts Box Office at 515-271-3841.

Said Burney: "It's cheaper than a movie, and better than anything Hollywood has to offer."

Burney will discuss Shakespeare's plays during a TalkAbout dinner at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, in Levitt Hall, Old Main. Tickets to the Talkbout, including the night's performance, are $35. Call 515-271-3147 for reservations or more information.