Brace yourselves. Mill Race Players’ upcoming presentation of the parody “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” is hardly your father’s stilted bestowal of the Bard’s best.

For starters, an overview of “Othello” is presented as an PG-13-rated, rip-roaring rap, complete with a vocal beatbox.

“What ‘Spaceballs’ and ‘Blazing Saddles’ are to sci-fi and westerns, this is to Shakespeare,” cast member Matt Walls said.

If classic literature from the Globe Theatre always has left you eschewing Elizabethan English, then this is an average citizen’s shot as mastering the master.

Story continues below gallery

For him, the play’s the thing.

For the local theatrical troupe, light education and heavy laughter’s the thing, complete with slapstick. The three-minute, fast-paced “Othello” scene drew guffaws even from those who have seen it rehearsed for weeks.

“If you like Shakespeare, you’ll love this,” said director Caitlin Smith, who performed the work in college. “If you don’t like Shakespeare, you’ll love this. It makes fun of everything possible that you don’t like about Shakespeare.”

And it does all this under the stars — partly anyway — at Columbus’ Donner Park shelter house, which Mill Race Players last used in 1973. The almost-new, casual setting represents the troupe’s attempt to additionally attract a new audience, and even new future performers. Rehearsals at the popular community site already have drawn attention, and even applause, from park visitors and passersby.

“We’ve gotten a strong reputation as pretty much a presenter of children’s shows,” said Smith, who directed one of those herself last year with “The Wind In the Willows.” “We really want to see this organization come back to life and offer more than just one show in the summertime.”

This marks an effort to reintroduce more adult-oriented shows that Mill Race once frequently did. Cast and crew figure this will be a good start.

“I love this play,” said cast member John Johnson, who directed a version of it in the late 1990s at Columbus North High School, where he leads the theater department. “It’s just insane. It’s not what you would think it would be at all.”

The presentation, featuring some brief straight-on Shakespeare segments, includes modern-culture references to topics such as Oprah Winfrey and even an audience-participation segment. “Titus Andronicus” becomes a cooking show.

Organizers believe such twists can turn people toward local theater. And, they believe, so can the free admission.

“You’ve got to find ways to break down some of the walls that might stand in the way (of audiences),” Smith said.

This looks like it breaks them down — or maybe looks like a breakdown of a normal production.

Johnson pronounced his specialized, Twitter-worthy review: “It’s definitely not dry, boring, vomitless Shakespeare.”

Making the Bard Not So Hard

What: Mill Race Players’ presentation of the comic “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 23-24 and 2 p.m. Oct. 25.

Where: Columbus’ Donner Park shelter house, near 19th Street and Lafayette Avenue. The shelter house seats about 200 people with room for more around the edges. Organizers will have some blankets on hand for viewers in case of a chill.

Admission: Free but with a suggested donation of $5 (but any amount accepted).

Cast members: Stephen Planalp, Matt Walls and John Johnson.

Information: The Facebook page for Mill Race Players.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.