Interview with Aaron Garrett, Director of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] [again]”

Before the opening performance of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] [again]”, we checked in with the Director, Aaron Garrett, to ask him about the show.

Question 1: Why did you want to direct this show?

Somehow, someway in the depths of the internet circa 2005 I discovered the Reduced Shakespeare Company. As a freshman while looking for a birthday present for my mother I stumbled upon a recording of this silly-sounding show and decided to buy it for her with what money I had at the time. It turns out I liked the gift a bit more than she did, and it wasn’t long before I was asking for their American history show for my birthday five months later. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) has been with me for longer than most theaters, and even longer than some Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus, I’m looking at you.)

Before I decided to make theater a regular part of my life this show was shaping my understanding of what theater could and should with its zany energy and commitment to well-informed playfulness with the Western Canon, so of course I had to direct it when given the chance!

Question 2: How would you describe your vision for this production?

Unlike most other licensed shows, the writers of Complete Works want this to be a living script which is localized and updated with each new production, to find the right jokes for each audience, so I wanted to bring a lot of improvisation and latitude for Jacobí, Sophia, and Brooke to make these characters their own. All five people on the team (including our amazing stage manager Sarah Willett) would pitch ideas for bits, gags, goofs, monkeyshines, and even the odd jape or two, in order to capture the feel of these three fools putting on a show at a moment’s notice.

Question 3: How has the rehearsal process been for this show? What has been exciting? What has been challenging?

Complete Works can play a trick on audiences as they watch it: since it’s so fast, so silly, and wants to invoke the feeling that this is a slapdash production without a lot of preparation it’s easy to walk away from the show without realizing how meticulous the timing has to be, how fast all these words are leaving the actor’s mouths, and the sheer virtuosity that is needed to flip between characters as the script demands. The pace of the show is a beast, although a fun beast, and the greatest challenge in this show is one faced by the three actors every night: once Brooke steps out onto stage there’s no stopping to take a breath for anyone (including the audience!) for the next ninety minutes.  

Question 4: What has been your favorite moment so far?

I’m proud of the camaraderie the cast has built over our six weeks together, and enormous logistical challenge of moving wigs, goblets, and scabbards to and from that Sarah manages behind the curtains. The joy of theatre is in the collaboration of diverse-minded artists, and this show not only allows for it, but demands it, it demands that you bring all of yourself to the fore in order to make a roomful of people share in laughter together, which I think is one the greatest callings theatre can aspire to.



Bonus: For those who want a little extra, let’s dive into the three thespians playing for you over the next four weeks.

Brooke plays the erstwhile leader of the group, often trying to keep things moving along and on track, but like her character she’s not afraid to dive into a little mischief when the mood hits her.

Jacobí is probably a bit more like his character than he’d like to admit to, but whereas his character uses intellectualism as a sword and shield to protect and agitate, Jacobí is far more likely to enjoy sharing his knowledge and expertise for the benefit of everyone. They’re both meticulous to a fault and care deeply about getting things right.

Where Jacobí shares the traits, but not the attitude of his character, Sophia is the opposite; she’s as fun-loving and ridiculous offstage as she is on, but does it all after she gets work done. I could never see Sophia trying to pull off a prank on her castmates, but then again, maybe she’s just laying a trap for me to walk into.