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Alumni to perform all of Shakespeare in 97 minutes

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Alex Lefeld rehearses backstage at MadLab on Jan. 9. Credit: Courtesy of Alex Lefeld

Alex Lefeld rehearses backstage at MadLab on Jan. 9. Credit: Courtesy of Alex Lefeld

The MadLab theater is hosting a whirlwind of cross dressing, sword fighting, absurdity and fourth-wall-shattering acting this weekend when Ohio State theater alumni Alex Lefeld, Brandon Boring and Sam Vestey perform “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged.”

Lefeld, a 2011 graduate, will take on the comedic challenge of interpreting many classical Shakespearean women throughout the show in his role as Adam in the fast-paced play. Lefeld humorously plays the majority of the female characters in the show including Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet,” despite his 6-foot stature.  

Lefeld worked with his fellow thespians and friends, Boring and Vestey, to rewrite the script, providing audiences with more current pop culture references. Boring is an Ohio State graduate in business administration. The trio is also responsible for booking the venue at MadLab in addition to directing and promoting the play.

“One of the challenges was directing the show with a three-headed director,” Lefeld said. “We are very close though, we’re all nerds and we’re all friends.”

The group unofficially rehearsed the play for five years before being offered an affordable venue at an opportune time by Andy Batt and Josh Kessler of MadLab. Lefeld met Batt and Kessler through his work in Columbus’ growing improvisational comedy community.

“Shakespeare: Abridged” takes a minimalist approach, allowing quick transitions to address all 37 plays and 154 sonnets by Shakespeare in 97 minutes. Many of the costume changes are simplistic, such as putting on a wig or a kilt, the quickest occurring in merely four seconds. The small black box theater venue at MadLab creates an intimate space where the audience is engaged. The play is interactive and has moments of partial improvisation and spontaneity.

The three actors work alongside a stage manager, Katie Poole, who assists them in the show’s many rapid costume and prop changes. Poole graduated from OSU in 2012 with a degree in English. She met Lefeld, Boring and Vestey while at university through Off the Lake Productions, a student-run theater group.

“I wasn’t really able to do anything in the theater community after I graduated,” Poole said. “It’s nice to reconnect with some old friends.”        

Along with his current work at MadLab, Lefeld is actively involved with his professional improvisational groups in Columbus called Fake Bacon and Full Frontal Nudity. He accredits OSU for launching his improvisational comedy career by providing him an outlet to be a founding member of the student organization Fishbowl Improv.

“Ohio State as a whole being a very involvement-based university gave me the opportunity to start Fishbowl Improv my junior year,” Lefeld said.

Lefeld said staying true to oneself is important when pursuing an acting career.

“Be the actor that you want to be,” he said. “Don’t try to be that actor that someone else already is.”

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged” is set to be performed on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at MadLab theater downtown at 227 N. Third St. Admission is $10.

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