Think Shakespeare is just for English majors and theater buffs? There’s a group of undergrads in all different majors that will prove you wrong. This weekend, the Rude Mechanicals present Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at Mendelssohn Theatre.
Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
As the only student-run Shakespeare group on campus, the Rude Mechanicals perform one of Shakespeare’s works and one contemporary play every year. Director Max Kaufman, a senior in the School of Music Theatre & Dance, proposed “The Tempest” for its spring production due to its malleability.
“I asked myself, ‘What can you do something new with?’ ” Kaufman said. “I was looking for something I could take in a new direction that has a large enough cast and some adequate gender distribution, so we’re not just playing with a cast of five white males.”
Kaufman feels that working with a cast of non-theater majors also allows the play to translate to a wider audience.
“In order for it to work, you have to get these non-theater people you’re working with to understand Shakespeare,” he said. “You really have to strip it down to its bare bones. I think the audience is far less intimidated by Shakespeare because the actors are less intimidated.”
While Kaufman chose to keep the play’s scenic, thematic and chronological elements true to the original, he has taken some artistic license to put a new spin on the conventional characters.
“It’s a selling point,” he said. “You’ll have to come see the play.”
Co-producer and LSA senior Allison Shuster acknowledged that appreciating Shakespeare can be difficult for most people, but maintained that it’s possible.
“It becomes easier with the more plays you read,” she said. “It also depends a lot on the acting, how well the actors convey their feelings through the words.”
With opening night approaching, the producers and director have very different expectations for how they will feel when the curtain rises.
Shuster and fellow co-producer Rebecca Noble, also an LSA senior, said they will likely be stressed out by the multitude of potential catastrophes that are bound to arise, and both said their favorite part is typically intermission.
“The unpredictability and spontaneity of it all” is Kaufman’s favorite part of seeing his work onstage — the exact thing that makes his producers cringe.
“It’s a dance, everyone changes and moves with the process that nobody has seen coming,” he said.
Though none of the performers, stage technicians or producers will be receiving credit hours for their performance, the escape from reality and chance to be in the spotlight is enough incentive for them.
“You get to see people who normally don’t do this sort of thing,” Kaufman said. “People that are used to crunching numbers and thinking about molecules get to pretend to be kings and murderers. The play also has a lot of very tangible and applicable messages and is, despite being hundreds of years old, completely relevant to our lives today.
“And, we have a fog machine,” he added.