The Spectacular Shakespeare Show

The oft-cheered Ryan from TheatreSquared performs a rap at the end of “The Shakespeare Show.” The rap received rapturous applause. Photo by Phillip Zawislak.

When all four grades filed into the auditorium, they expected to hear some sort of performance about Shakespeare. What they didn’t  expect to see was a well-thought-out, consistently funny show that kept them entertained for an entire class period.

The performance, called “The Shakespeare Show,” was presented by TheatreSquared, a theater company based in Northwest Arkansas. The show was as part of TheatreSqured’s in-school tour; the company performs to students at no cost to the school due to support from private companies, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The student response to the performance was overwhelmingly positive, with raucous applause from the more than 300 students at each of the two showings. The performance, which detailed the tragedies of Shakespeare in an abridged 45-minute format, began with Romeo and Juliet. A “TED Talk” explanation of iambic pentameter followed, with “The Scottish Play” — also known as Macbeth claiming a few minutes of stage time.  Antony and Cleopatra also received its own brief description. Due to not having time for a detailed explanation of every single Shakespearean tragedy, there was a brief death montage in SparkNotes style, followed by an explanation of Hamlet. This abridged version of Hamlet was preceded by a note to the audience on the importance of the play, and concluded with a fight scene that brought members of the audience up onto the stage, most of whom played dead characters. Finally, with just a few minutes to go, the cast performed a rap on William Shakespeare. 

Each segment received more cheers than the last, and several students noted their positive reaction to the overall performance. “I thought it was very unique and different because it was its own thing,” said senior Michael Esbaner. “It didn’t really portray Shakespeare in a traditional light, but that was good.”

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