Star Wars-Shakespeare crossover to open this weekend

Photos by Teo Fleming

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … two star-crossed lovers met their tragic ends? When thinking of artistic geniuses, William Shakespeare and George Lucas both come to mind, but rarely together. However, now there is a play for those who have always wanted to see Macbeth with a lightsaber or Jabba the Hut in britches: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, which will be presented by Spectacle Theatre and the Drama Seminar class on November 22 and 23.

Director Patricia Wray adapted the story from a book of the same name by Ian Doescher, written in the form of a five-act play. “It was published this summer, in July, and [the writer] loves Shakespeare and loves Star Wars … [so] he took the first film … and he transposed it into iambic pentameter,” said Wray. “It’s the same story, but it sounds different because it’s all ‘verily’ and ‘fie’ and all sorts of Shakespearean Elizabethan language.” The text is currently among the “Season’s Biggest Books” at Barnes & Noble.

Paradoxically, this fanciful fusion of genres may be easier to relate to than the original story. While Shakespeare is a stage-acting staple, it often doesn’t provide the type of material that interests middle and high school students.

“The main thing that we always want to do with these plays is put on something that everyone in the school is going to enjoy, which is sometimes hard to do when you’re doing Shakespeare,” said Elias Abilheira ’15, who will play Obi-Wan Kenobi. “So doing Star Wars was a perfect way to give enjoyment to the students and have fun doing it ourselves.”

Wray felt similarly regarding the process of choosing the play. A combination of something modern and familiar and something more advanced and traditional provided “a way to make [theater] more palatable for students,” she said.

Such an innovative combination does not come without its difficulties. One of the hardest parts has been “having the kids understand what they’re saying,” said Wray. “Since [the actors] know the movie so well, I keep telling them, go back to that … you know the series of events, and you have to say these lines that sound like gibberish with that same kind of intention. So it’s working both of the things together. Otherwise they’re memorizing a bunch of words and they have no idea what they’re saying.”

In addition, many actors have had to take on greater responsibilities; Luke Skywalker will be played by Spencer Zullo ’17, the youngest actor in the class. “When I got called into this class, I was terrified … being in a senior play horrified me,” said Zullo. “But I’ve come to love it. I think it’s great that I got the opportunity to do this.” The challenge of such a creative play has fostered a collaborative and supportive atmosphere. “I love just being with [these] people that have the same common goal and want to accomplish the same thing and put on a good production,” Zullo said.

Some of the most fun products of this cultural synthesis have been the physical manifestations of the story: costumes and set. “We can’t go completely futuristic, and we also can’t go completely Elizabethan era. Finding a good blend between the two time periods has definitely been quite difficult,” said Abilheira. The audience can expect humorous mashups of Old English and galactic style.

“The costumes will be a combination of Star Wars and Elizabethan costumes, so R2D2 is not a metal can—R2D2 will be in a jester’s costume,” said Wray. There will “still [be] lightsabers, but [actors will wear] britches and Shakespeare[an] hats and feathers.”

Despite the differences between both tales, actors agree that they go well together. “The range of different topics discussed throughout … can go from action to adventure to a little bit of romance, with me and my hopeless lover … There’s that classic clash [which] brings everything together,” said Zullo. “There’s a little bit of everything … you want to see in a play.”

Wray also expects that this new mélange will be attractive to viewers because of its fresh take on stories that they know and love. According to Wray, audiences will enjoy “the sense of fun about it,” and will be “see[ing] something that they’re familiar with but [that has] a different spin on it.”

Said Abilheira, “It’s going to be quite the spectacle.”