KPAC offers groovy twist on Shakespeare

Take a classic William Shakespeare play, place it in the 1970s, and mix gender roles so male cast members play female characters and vice versa.

Combine it all well, and what you get is a modern twist on one of Shakespeare’s first plays, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which features Waimea, Kapaa, and Kauai High School students directed by Kauai Performing Arts Center Coordinator Dennis McGraw.

“Shakespeare truly relates his plays to people and not marked places, times or things, so you can kind of put the people in whatever setting you’d like to and it works,” McGraw said about his decision to set the play in the 1970s.

The annual, joint high school performance kicked off last weekend and will continue this weekend in the KPAC Black Box Theatre in Kauai High School classroom R-3. Performances today and on Saturday will begin at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s performance will be at 3 p.m.

This year’s production, McGraw said, marks the first time in several years that high school students have taken part in a Shakespeare play.

“I really felt that we had very capable and experienced student actors who had been in plays for the past five or six years ever since they were in middle school who could actually handle the Shakespeare,” McGraw said. “There’s a lot of lines to learn, and basically, it’s a foreign language — it is English, but it’s hard to do it in a way that the audience understands, but I think the kids have done a very good job of it.”

Like other Shakespeare plays, McGraw said “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” deals with common themes of friendship and infidelity, conflicts between friendship and love, and the sometimes irrational behavior of people who are in love.

As for why gender roles were swapped for the production, McGraw’s explanation echoed a famous refrain from “Hamlet,” another famous Shakespeare play: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”

“I have more girls interested in acting in the program than boys,” McGraw said. “It’s that simple. Everyone has been real troupers by standing up and doing it by playing the opposite sex — some people may not like doing it, but everyone has had a good time with it and we rehearse with a smile on our face. I think it’s going to be funny.”

Tickets for the weekend shows, available from cast members or at the door, are $8 for adults and $6 for students.

Info: McGraw at: 651-2417.

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