Q&A with Drew Allen
On April 18 I sat down with freshman undeclared major Drew Allen, who plays Adam in the comedy “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
It’s basically three actors trying to honor Shakespeare by attempting to perform all of his most famous works in a single performance. But as the three actors go along, it just gets crazier and crazier and, granted, you see the plays through their interpretation and a lot of them have very skewed ideas of what’s going on in Shakespeare’s plays.
So what do you like most about this play?
What I like most about it is that whenever you imagine Shakespeare, you imagine very complicated, complex words that very few people are able to understand. It’s very dry, very boring, and we actually go into detail about that at one point in the play. But what this one does is it makes it fun and satirical, and there’s massive audience participation. We encourage audience participation; we ask for their opinions; we ask for them to laugh with us; we ask them if it’s alright if we call them names. It’s funny and somewhat mature without being bathroom-like.
What do you mean by “mature?”
It’s made for older people. I would recommend ages 14 and up, who have some minuscule experience with Shakespeare. It’s always fun having the hardcore Shakespearians walk in and tell us “I really loved your interpretation of “Troilus and Cressida.” And I’m like “We didn’t; we just threw a football around.” That’s always fun.
Who do you play specifically?
In accordance to the script, I portray the character of Adam. (With) the way the authors wrote the script, the original (characters), Adam, Jess and Daniel, you are given, as an actor, a lot of freedom to basically play yourself; that’s why the play is so popular, because there is no set characters. It’s just you go in there, and you be you, and you interpret it as however you want it to be interpreted and have fun playing it yourself. One of the things that the original actors do is with Adam, he is kind of stupid and kind of very out of the loop of the three whereas I go about it with clear, blatant ignorance. I am aware of Shakespeare; I know what’s going on; I choose to not care, and the parts I am passionate about, no one seems to understand. I would describe my character as the runt or the mutt.
So why “Shakespeare Abridged?” Why not just give us the full monty of Shakespeare like an actual Shakespeare play?
Because we did that last semester with “Hamlet,” and there was a fantastic response to that in terms of the audience. But “The Complete Works” is much more audience friendly. With “Hamlet” there is a lot of complicated words, and people don’t understand with the old English, and we kind of bring it into a modern context that people are much more able to understand. And we make it silly, and we cut lots of pieces here and there, and we make it seem like we have no idea what we’re doing. We could do a real version of “Macbeth,” but I think it’s much more fun to have ten seconds of “Macbeth” and then stumble our way right into “Julius Caesar” in an attempt to have the jack-of-all-trades approach to it all instead of coming in with “Hamlet” and being the king of everything. It’s a much more broader, friendly interpretation for the play.
I noticed you said “Macbeth” several times now. Are you worried that you just screwed up the show?
It’s only a curse if you say it in a theater, Benedict! But yes, we make fun of that line so much to the point where I almost say it on stage, and everybody just flips the hell out before we stop and explain to the audience about it, to the point where we curse ourselves.
What’s the hardest part about wearing either makeup or women’s wigs?
I’ve never had much experience with makeup aside from regular foundation. But the difficulty with the wigs and the costumes for the show is that, especially for my character and Evan Field’s character, there are so many costume changes and props and wigs that we have to use consistently throughout the show. One of the reasons the show was double cast is that if Evan is on stage, I’m backstage managing his props and his costumes, so that when we come back to change I’m ready to assist him, because it really is difficult to change that quickly. It got to the point we would just throw a skirt over our heads and say it’s a garter for Gertrude and we’re gonna wear a sash for Claudius because we just don’t have that much time to swap out.
Since you’re wearing women’s wigs, do you ever find yourself embracing the character to the point where you look at yourself and go “I do not look beautiful today” or become enthralled with how you look?
I have caught myself many times looking in the mirror and doing the little Ophelia dance that I do. I tell myself “I need to stop this. I’m in public.” The character is definitely rubbing off on me. I performed it once in high school as well and so playing the character of Ophelia was kind of like opening the closet, seeing the old wig from years ago and saying “Hello old friend, how have you been? I’m sorry I have abandoned you.”
What’s the most embarrassing moment you have?
(Chuckles) You can’t be embarrassed as my character. You just have to be shameless. But, I suppose, the most embarrassing part of the show would have to be when I completely screw up “Othello.” I walk out super confident, and I say, “Here’s Othello. And now we’re done with Othello so we can move on,” and the audience is wondering what just happened. I completely embarrass myself for the audience.
Anything else you want to add?
We toured the show around the Southeast. We took it to Oconee Regional Medical and St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., which was a very rewarding experience. The children there were incredibly grateful for our performance. We also performed up in Atlanta for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as well as Scottish Rite Hospital. It is a very rewarding experience to have very sick children sitting in front of you, laughing along as you dance. I was really surprised at how happy and enthusiastic they were about the show given their situation, whether they have leukemia or cancer. It was a very intense, eye-opening experience, and I’m very grateful to our director for setting that up.