Shakespeare festival back on campus

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The Shakespeare Festival will begin again on Oct. 3. Pictured here are several Bakersfield College theater students preparing while listening to their instructor Randal Messick

Ruben Perez, Reporter

Starting Oct. 3, The Kern Shakespeare Festival returns in its 27th season with new performances of classic plays “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

The director of The Shakespeare Festival, Randall Messick, uses student actors and guest actors to perform classic plays by “the greatest playwright of all time.”

Messick found one of the guest actors, Casey Worthington, in Davis near Sacramento.

“He saw me in Davis Shakespeare Ensemble’s ‘Henry V,’” said Worthington. “That’s where he caught me.”

Though you may be familiar with the plays, Messick explained that with Shakespeare, “it’s inexhaustible in the ways you can do the plays, your approach to them.”

A big change in the approach of the plays is that neither is set in Shakespeare’s time.

“Romeo and Juliet will be set, not in an Elizabethan era with tights,” Messick said. “It’s going to be set more in an Eastern European turn of the century village, so it’s going to be much more rural and much more earthy. I think also much more intimate because the village is small and the nature of conflict between families is intense, and it’s also just a fun look.

“We’re going have a lot of fun with ‘Much Ado’ because we’re going to set it right after World War II in an English village, and the soldiers are coming back from their experience fighting in World War II, which is going to give us a lot of fun with the music and costumes and looks.”

Another change Messick’s made to the play ‘Much Ado’ involves the character Conrad, who will now be a “floozy” played by Amanda Duke.

“Instead of having a guy console him about all the evil stuff he’s going to do, a girl consoles him,” explained Duke, a theater student at Bakersfield College.

“When you see it on stage, you understand automatically what they’re talking about, and we’re just upping the dirty jokes because that’s really what he meant,” said Duke. “Shakespeare is all sex jokes.

“That’s one of those things people don’t tell you a lot, but every scene has a sex joke in it usually, unless it’s the end of Romeo and Juliet. That obviously doesn’t.”

Worthington elaborated on the play.

“It was entertainment for the masses, not for people that could understand these high words,” he said. “That was closer to how people talked then, and it was just bawdy humor.”

Due to the renovations in the Speech and Music Building, the festival had to be moved, but it’s one that didn’t put Messick off.

“It has actually kind of been fun in a way, because we’ve had to find different places to do our plays, and that’s sort of forced us into luck finding some really cool spots like Renegade Park,” he said. “I never even knew it was there before.”

The festival will still go on, but it will be outdoors in Renegade Park, which Messick is looking forward to.

“It’s in a beautiful venue,” he said. “There’s something magical about seeing Shakespeare outdoors under the stars.”