The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]
Cedar Rapids Public Library — Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21 at 2 p.m.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library will put on a PG-13-rated play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised], on July 20 and 21. The performance — full of literary, local and mature humor — represents both the billowing theater community in Cedar Rapids and the need for programming for library-goers in between children and senior demographics.
Kami Zbanek Hill, John Zbanek Hill and Melissa Caminneci are the only three actors involved in the performance. There is no director or stage manager, but Kevin Delecki, programming manager at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, has worked with the actors to coordinate the best show possible.
“The premise is we have an hour and a half to perform or touch on or mention every single one of William Shakespeare’s works,” said Kami Zbanek Hill. “There’s a tendency to think ‘Oh, it’s Shakespeare and it’s very high brow and cultural and snobby and there are fake British accents,’ but there are a lot of penis jokes in Shakespeare.”
“As Melissa so gently points out directly in the show, Shakespeare was a perv,” said Delecki.
The Complete Works aims to show audiences that Shakespeare was cultural, but not in the way most people believe he was. The show aims to make the playwright accessible and more easily understood, said Zbanek Hill.
The show is scripted — it was developed in the 1980s by authors Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, through Renaissance festivals; it premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987 — but improvisation and localized tailoring are encouraged in the beginning of the script. This gave the actors autonomy to create a show specifically for an audience centered in the Cedar Rapids area.
In the past 18 months, Delecki said, the Cedar Rapids Public Library has been aiming to include ages 18-40 in their programming since they were the most commonly neglected demographic.
“We ensure that the library offers the physical materials for our entire community, but we weren’t providing the sense of community along with that,” said Delecki.
Some of the events that have been put on with this goal in mind are financial literacy courses in breweries around Cedar Rapids, a mid-century fashion show and discussion and a mocktail course with a professional bartender.
“Access for theater for all is a big part of my personality … and what John is about as a human, and growing as theater artists, [access] has always been important to us,” Zbanek Hill said. “Going to a theater event shouldn’t be something you have to put on a black tie for … [or] put on a beaded gown and sip a glass of champagne for. Theater is for everybody.”
None of the actors nor Delecki had ever put on a full, professional play in a library, so the process is new to them. Nonetheless, the rehearsals are self-led and hilarious, said Zbanek Hill, though they are in the process of cutting out some of the many Cedar Rapidian-centric jokes they have come up with.
“I hope [the audience] leaves with a bellyache from laughing so hard,” Zbanek Hill said. “There are shows that have a fantastic message and great societal change in them … but you know what, sometimes cotton candy is OK. Sometimes you can just come to watch something and forget about how crappy life can be. I hope someone leaves and says ‘I didn’t know there was a dick joke in Romeo and Juliet.’”
Both performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised], one each on July 20 and 21, will take place at 2 p.m. and be free to the public, though tickets must be reserved to guarantee guests can get a seat. It is recommended that children under the age of 13 do not attend.