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Ben Oliver

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Randy Messick, head of the Theatre Arts Department at Bakersfield College, sits in his office on the phone, simultaneously writing on a piece of paper.

He rushes to get his work done. He knows he only has a matter of days to make things perfect. However, he does manage to maintain a cheerful demeanor as he goes about his work.

He doesn’t seem like he’d ever have any trouble or regrets as far as the works of William Shakespeare are concerned. He has always had an extremely high opinion of Shakespeare’s plays.

“(He’s) Spielberg times a thousand!” he declares.

The love that he shares with the actors, directors and stage crew members for the playwright’s work is on display in the 18th annual Kern Shakespeare Festival.

This year, the Theatre Arts Department is presenting “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” a comedy directed by BC theater professor Kim Chin, about a man named John Falstaff who tries to con two women to gain their affection, and possibly a little more.

They also are performing?the more dramatic play “Titus Andronicus,” directed by community actor Bob Kempf, which Messick describes as “an all-out gore fest.”

When the Theatre Arts Department presents a play by Shakespeare, they often take some creative liberties as far as the era of the plays’ settings. In previous years, actors performed “The Taming of the Shrew” as a Western, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” set in the Victorian era.

This year, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” takes place on the high seas with characters being portrayed as pirates, and “Titus Andronicus,” is played as a modern warring country.

Most people may not be familiar with the slightly obscure plays chosen this year, but Messick shrugs all of this off. He is confident that even the lesser known plays of Shakespeare will be enjoyed by all.

“This year, the plays have something for all tastes,” Messick said. “We have a romantic comedy, and a nice slasher, so it’ll be fun.”

In addition to BC students, the plays feature several community actors, including Monica Nadon, Cory Rickard, Pam Soler and Kempf. Even Messick appearing in the plays.

“We wanted to invite in some professional actors, that way it would be a better experience for the student actors as well as the audience,” Chin said.

“Titus Andronicus” opened Wednesday and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” opened Thursday.

The shows alternate Wednesday through Saturday over the next two weeks until the closing night of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” on Oct. 19.

Tickets go on sale at the door at 6 p.m. and doors open at 7. Prices are $5 for students and seniors, and $8 for general admission. Children under 5 will not be admitted.

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The news site of Bakersfield College
The Curtain Rises