Complete Works of Shakespeare, funniest play around

Monday Magazine's resident Shakespeare buff talks the complete works of Shakespeare

Welcome Shakespearophile.  So guess what CWSA means.  Go on.  Take a stab at it. Canadian Women Soccer Association. Good one, but do try again. Cancel Without Salacious Alacrity. Now you are just being silly.  Last chance! Change With Social  Activism. The last one reads like a bad ’80s bumper sticker.

It stands for COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE {ABRIDGED}. It must be the funniest play about and around the Bard ever.  We had our giften cast read it out at the Imagine Cafe last month.  There were seventy-five laughs in just ninety minutes.  The cast sat at a long table and just read it aloud.  Seventy-five laughs.  Now the cast is very talented but all it took was reading the words in the right order.

Katherine Hepburn, while making “The Lion In Winter” told the young actors “Please stop acting and just say the words.  The script is so good any effort will get in the way.” Oh sure rehearse hard and be exactly well-timed but just let it ease out of you.  This we can do.  You surf the genius.  No need to push the river.

People often ask if there is a deeper meaning to CWSA.  What is more meaningful than joy?  The story?  An acting troupe wants to do all the plays of Shakespeare but pare it down so they can cover all the tragedies, comedies, and histories in one evening.  So they skip a few things.  A lot of things.  They argue.  They cry.  We laugh.  Intermission rolls up and they have skewered them all, all but “Hamlet.”  The whole of the second half is dedicated to dissecting and desiccating that play with their play CWSA.

It is a laugh riot.  They do “Hamlet” much-abridged in forty-two seconds, and then do it backwards in forty-three seconds.  This is a play that really has the goods on being playful forwards or backwards.

Our cast and director can hardly wait to get into the script and parse out the laughs they know will work and the laughs that will surprise everybody.  We may even witness a rare event in this play.  We call “The rolling laugh.”  What is it?  So glad you asked.  We are trained to restart our dialogue right after a laugh peaks and falls away.  What if the audience simply can not or will not stop laughing?  What do you do?  You SHOUT!  It may come in this play this year.  It will come this season.

The rolling laugh is a state of comic grace.  Throw away lines incite roars.  Exposition or set-up lines become hilarious.  You simply soldier on and bark it out.  Tears are shed, ribs ache, and faces will hurt three days later.  Five years ago we did it.  It was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The Mechanicals crazy show at the end.  Sweet insanity!  This season CWSA will conjure the rolling laugh back to our stage by the sea.

— Robert Light is the artistic director of the Vancouver Island Shakespeare Arts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read