Here’s a Question:
What kinda “stuff” do you like? What kinda “stuff” do you spend your time paying attention to? When you need to unwind, or to get some perspective, or escape the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, what do you switch on, open up, or wrap up in? I have to be honest, recently, I’ve fallen prey to the individualistic algorithmically generated zeitgeist. If Netflix or Amazon Prime or Audible recommends it to me, that’s the stuff I’m soaking up. But what about the enriching “stuff” that plucks at the heart strings and stirs the soul? What about the “stuff” we’re supposed to consume like Brussel sprouts? What about PBS, Crime and Punishment, and Citizen Kane?
No matter what you like, your stuff can fit into one of two categories: The first category—Apollonian stuff or “High Art”—aspires to raise humans out of their animalistic beginnings by looking to the heavens, the divine, or the virtuous. Opera, ballet, and films like Citizen Kane often fit into this category. Named after the Greek god of the Sun and patron of music, Apollo, Apollonian art is often highly structured, lofty, and requires a highly skilled artist to make it. The second category—Dionysian stuff or Low Art—dwells in the baseness of human existence. It celebrates the chaotic, erratic, and scatological. This category is named after the Greek God of Theater and wine, Dionysus, and its art is often goofy, bawdy, and thumbs its nose at the folks in charge. If it has a fart joke in it, you’re watching Dionysian Art.
You know my favorite thing about working on a play like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)? The play makes the point that Shakespeare appeals to both sides of the “Stuff” coin. His work is Apollonian because of his use of structured poetry and his characters are bound to a hierarchy. Star-crossed lovers must die and those that flout authority come to a bad end.
“There’s a divinity that shapes out ends
Rough hew it how we may.” Hamlet – Act 5, Sc 2
“My bounty is boundless as the sea
My love as deep; The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.” Romeo & Juliet – Act 2 Sc. 2
“Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” Twelfth Night – Act 5, Sc 1
Conversely, Shakespeare wrote to please the masses and uneducated of his time, too! To entertain the groundlings, he wrote pages of action sequences, crude insults, and references to body parts that you’re not allowed to talk about at school outside of health class.
“He has not so much brain as ear-wax.” Troilus and Cressida - Act 5, Sc 1
“The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril.” The Merry Wives of Windsor - Act 3, Sc 5
“This woman’s an easy glove, my lord, she goes off and on at pleasure.” All’s Well That Ends Well - Act 5, Sc 3
“Away, you three-inch fool!” The Taming of the Shrew - Act 4, Sc 1
Apollonian, it ain’t. ….and the 3 players in Complete Works take this off-ramp to introduce you to the full Shakespearean cannon. The play is an irreverent romp played by three archetypical lovers of the Bard: If you go ga-ga-gushy at the mention of Billy Bard’s name, you might be an “Amy”; if your ego inflates with every iamb you get to utter, you’re an “Eric”; and if you sleep through most of it but get your jollies from battles and bawdy language, you’re probably a “Richie”. I’ve been all three of the archetypes at different points in my life. No matter where you fall, you’ll find something new to love about Shakespeare.
Don’t worry if your Shakespearean foundation is a little shaky. In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) you are guaranteed to hear the title of every play that Shakespeare ever wrote, presented to you using the best pratfalls and spit-takes this side of the Susquehanna River. Shakespeare’s best Stuff is Apollonian and Dionysian at the same time and when the “Low” artist presents the “High Art,” it makes a space for everybody to enjoy it. In Complete Works the circus clowns have taken over the trapeze and they are working without a net!
You won’t be able to take your eyes off of it!
Aaron White, August 2019
“The Clowns commandeered the flying trapeze without a net.”
Filled with adrenaline and excitement, the potential for complete disaster is ever-present. Just as soaring through the air with the greatest of ease requires skill and precision, these buffoons attempt to embody an entire cannon of plays that requires skill and taste they more than likely lack. The audience is always aware that they could crash and burn at any moment. Plus… tights are involved.