Star-Ledger: “Let’s make this quick. Theaters condense great works for busy lives”
Take a look at the Newark Star-Ledger’s feature story on condensed shows, including the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s performance at MPAC Thursday, February 21st!
Star-Ledger: “Let’s Make This Quick: Theaters Condense Great Works For Busy Lives”
By Natalie Pompilio
Don’t have time to read the complete Harry Potter series or an extra 19 hours and 39 minutes to watch the movies?
“Potted Potter,” which recently passed through the state, has boiled it all down to 90 minutes. Too intimidated by the Bard to even imagine reading his complete works? The Reduced Shakespeare Company, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center Feb. 21, will fill you in on 37 plays in 97 minutes.
In our fast and furious world, it seems we’re always looking for short cuts, life hacks, different ways we can get things done and off our to-do lists.
The world of entertainment has adapted for our reduced attention spans, making movies with shorter shots and more movement. In years past, successful American TV shows had a standard 22-episode television season. That’s been cut in half, or as New York magazine’sVulture section noted, “10 episodes is the New 13 (Was the New 22).”
On “The Late Late Show with James Corden” in December, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt joined the host in performing “22 musicals in 12 minutes,” combining seemingly incongruous shows including “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Cabaret” and “Into the Woods.” The YouTube clip has thus far received more than seven million views.
Many Americans absorb news in sound bites; the president sets national and international policy via Tweet; and some print publications are topping off stories with an estimated reading time so people can plan accordingly.
“One of the emerging sources of stress in America is too many alternatives, too many choices, too many decisions to make, and we don’t want to miss out on anything–the now famous FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) motive,” explained Frank Farley, a professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University and a former President of the American Psychological Association.
“Given this world of complex, changing information engagement, many people don’t want to take the time for lengthy engagement with a book, or a play, any full text, because, I feel (1) they might miss out on things that are fast-breaking on-line or (2) find such extended concentration boring, and difficult to complete.”
“Potted Potter,” a.k.a. “Harry in a Hurry,” is a comedy send-up of J.K. Rowling’s series as well as an homage to it. The stage show draws a lot of its humor from the relationship between the two actors on stage and, sometimes, from audience members who jump in. The show, which recently played at the McCarter Theatre Center, has been touring the world since 2007 and still sells out venues.
Perhaps, Farley mused, the popularity of such shows are “reflective of a change in our culture, decomposing complex ideas and knowledge into very small pieces, losing the nuances, losing important details, losing the more complex insights, losing the subtle connections and consilience among ideas…”
That said, rapid-fire entertainment isn’t all bad, opined Austin Tichenor, a writer, performer and managing partner of “Reduced Shakespeare.”
The troupe’s trademark three-man show condenses all of the Bard’s known plays into 97 minutes and “there’s great bragging rights to be able to say, ‘I saw the complete works of Will Shakespeare in a single night.'”
The show also serves an a primer for those who come to Shakespeare “with a lot of baggage,” Tichenor said.
It gently reminds audiences that Shakespeare isn’t totally out of reach. In fact, his work is part of every day life. He’s the person who gave the world sayings like “dead as a door nail,” “eat out of house and home,” “all that glitters isn’t gold” and, of course, “brevity is the soul of wit,” a favorite of the “Reduced Shakespeare” team.
Watching all of the plays compressed into one is like having CliffsNotes for the stage: It takes less time to absorb. It’s more clear. It’s easily digestible. And the humor part of it helps make it memorable.
“Conquering massive topics is what we’re all about,” said Tichenor, whose company has also condensed Christmas stories and other tales. “When people are deciding how to spend their leisure time and entertainment dollar, they need to feel that what they’re seeing is worth their time and money. Seeing ALL of Shakespeare’s plays in a single evening … is a great investment in culture — and a hugely funny way to spend an evening.”
THE REDUCED SHAKESPEARE COMPANY PRESENTS THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
$29-49, available online at https://www.mayoarts.org. Feb. 21.