Basement Arts to present comedic Shakespeare compilation

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 5:33pm

The most impressive and innovative way that students of the University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance are creating theater is through the work of Basement Arts. A completely student run theatre group housed on North Campus that consistently runs a few shows per semester, Basement Arts situates its shows back to back, weekend to weekend — providing a space for students to exercise creativity and agency in the theatre.

Students who are interested in being a part of Basement Arts can propose both original and established works to be produced, directed, performed and designed by students to the Basement Arts board, an elected team of students in the SMTD. The turnover is quick, with rehearsal time being about three weeks and funds being minimal — but time and time again the students of the SMTD and the Basement team produce magic.

Next up on the Basement Arts agenda is "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)[Revised]," which is being directed by Elle Smith and showcases two BFA performance majors and a BFA musical theatre major. Elle decided to propose this piece because it stands out as being different from conventional ideas of Shakespeare.

“I first saw a VHS recording of the original production with the Shakespeare club I started with a few of my friends from Shakespeare camp — I was a super cool kid,” she said. "It was the first time I realized that Shakespeare wasn’t always this serious form of drama; it could be really funny.”

Smith is no stranger to the field of directing — she has been directing both in and out of the University for her entire college career, having already directed for both Basement Arts and other student run theatre organizations on campus like Rude Mechanicals. Last year she directed “The Importance of Being Ernest” and “Dear.”

After graduation, Smith plans to pursue directing and is hoping to land an apprenticeship at a regional theatre in either New York or the Mid-West. She has been passionate about her directing career since senior year of high school when she was urged by a teacher to go into directing. With that, she switched her career plan from actor to director.

She has directed for UPROD and student run pieces, for comedies and tragedies — but when asked about how comedy and tragedy differ, she claims, “In my experience, I’ve found that comedy needs to be treated very seriously, and drama needs emphasis on comedic moments.”

The piece she is currently directing, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)[Revised]", which will be performed this coming weekend through Basement Arts, is a play written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. The play experienced great success in New York and many other cities nationwide. It includes 37 Shakespeare plays in 97 minutes and was London’s longest running comedy in London’s West End. The entirety of Shakespeare’s major works are condensed into one play, played by three actors. Though the piece did originally debut in London, it has had thrived on stages in the United States as well.

Smith prides herself on being different in her directorial style.

“Everyone in the directing department has a different style,” she said. “I’m really into reimagining classic works with a modern twist — like my all-female production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ last fall. I also have an amazing concept for a zombie production of ‘Hamlet.’”

With such vision, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)[Revised]" is sure to breathe fresh, fast life into nearly fourty classic plays.