Wrote this comedy piece for The New England Theatre Geek:
The Complete Gospel of the Reduced
Shakespeare Company (sorta)
the gospel according to Becca Kidwell
In The Beginning there was the word. And the word was boring. So some old dudes tried to manipulate it through tools called poetry and philosophy and it was less boring. However, people still preferred to watch people getting mocked and maimed in crazy ways such as being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil.
In the age known for its rebirth, a chap from the English countryside named Bill, who really liked the poetry from before time decided to share this love through new productions of these old works that he put into a more exciting form of poetry that was so much more 17th century and even had speeches that were spoken in real English. Between his fancy re-appropriation of the ancient texts along with new fangled pyrotechnics, the plays were often criticized as being spectacles because the events could be equated to events such as being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil. But hey, it was more interesting than the plague or keeping up with the Queen’s affairs (“virgin” indeed). And Bill made a lot of money and he saw that as good so he retired to Stratford-Upon-Avon with frequent booty calls in London that were so stealthy that even his best friends questioned if it was Bill or a dummy in the cottage. And some people even speculated that he was Keyser Söze. Then he died most likely from an STD. But people were still bored.
In the age where electronic entertainment boxes were becoming more ubiquitous around the world, particularly because of Will Churchill’s singing voice, the live poets were afraid that no one would pay attention to these 17th century literary masterpieces because they were no longer spectacles and people preferred to watch things like others being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil, and I Love Lucy. British officials decided to create a playgroup called the Royal Shakespeare Company to try to make bigger spectacles and make both Bill and ancient poets’ works interesting and relevant. With the help of people like Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Gandhi and the invention of portable video players Bill and the ancient ones’ works were seen and admired although many people still wanted to watch other people being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil. And people were still bored.
A year prior to the botanical dynasty of American presidents, during the time of actors, two men, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield saw that while poetry and philosophy and history could be interesting and not completely boring but until Jean-Luc Picard left the Enterprise and Gandhi left India that people would still prefer being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil instead of paying attention to these works of yore.
After try an error at festivals celebrating the time of Bill and his buds in America, they realized that they could draw people away from being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil by chopping up the ancient tomes and making them more understandable through silly jokes, some bad jokes, and the youngest man dressing in drag and doing the hula. And people saw it. And it was good.
Alas, Daniel and Jess abandoned their geisha Adam Long and he tried to be funny on his own, but all that he could do is wear ugly wigs and vomit on people. And that was not so good. So a clown by the name of Reed Martin and a surfer dude named Austin Tichenor saw Adam begging on the street in ugly wigs and throwing up on people and said, “what is up with this weirdo?” They soon realized that Adam had much knowledge and that they should form a cult around him. And thus, as the world was feeling more hopeful about sex and money, the Reduced Shakespeare radio show was launched by the BBC.
They spent a lot of time across the pond because the Brits fed them chocolate and idolized them as sex symbols and because Americans had stolen half of the Royal Shakespeare Company for movies and they needed something with the initials RSC to entertain their people. And that was pretty ok and gave them time to make audio and video recordings whilst hearing people use words like whilst and figuring out what the heck a euro was.
After hearing the song “we’re not gonna take it” (whichever version you prefer) many times and being stuffed with British chocolate and British money, Adam decided that his geisha days were behind him and kicked Fergie out of her flat and decided to live happily ever after in the land that once gave STDs to many kings, queens, and poets (like our friend Bill). And it was good for Adam.
After hearing the song “we’re not gonna take it” (whichever version you prefer) many times and being stuffed with British chocolate and British money, Reed and Austin decided to invest in a whole hoard of geishas (including Matt Rippy and one of the newest members Dustin Sullivan) so that they could enjoy their chocolates and monies around the world, but never be required to play the majority of the female characters in most of their shows. And it was good for Reed and Austin.
And it was good for those of us who watched PBS pledge drives. During its only time of interesting programming, the hundred people watching got to hear shit and Shakespeare in the same sentence. This spread to high school classrooms and college campuses and pretty soon a lot of the world had heard the name of The Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Though they are still not well known in small places like Rhode Island, they have shown people that Shakespeare, the Bible, history, and heck even sports could be interesting. While nothing will ever match the peoples’ fascination of being eaten by lions, burned at the stake, and hung upside down by their ankles over boiling vats of oil, The Reduced Shakespeare Company has shown us that there is some other interesting stuff out there somewhere.
…And they all lived happily ever after…