JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Claeren and Whitton Adapt Novel
about Shakespeare for Stage

Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau

JACKSONVILLE -- September 10, 2001 -- Not much is known about the great playwright William Shakespeare. But Jacksonville State University’s Drama Department sets the stage for a world premier of The Late Mr. Shakespeare.

The Late Mr. Shakespeare by British novelist Robert Nye has been adapted for the stage by JSU’s own Dr. Wayne Claeren, professor of drama, and Dr. Steven Whitton, professor of English.

Claeren was directing JSU’s production of Hamlet and was doing some related reading. “I read Nye’s novel and it cried to be done on the stage,” comments Claeren. Claeren pitched the idea to Whitton over breakfast one morning and the rest is history.

Stage rights were received and the two began writing. But they wanted to keep the script as close to the novel as possible.

“It’s all about the words,” says Whitton, who is also directing the play. “Instead of writing, we are just adapting the novel to the stage.”

In fact, there are so many great words that the two are now trying to trim some of them to meet their time limit which, with intermission, will be about two hours.

What they will definitely keep about the novel is the concept of a one-man show. The main character nicknamed Pickleherring claims to have played in Shakespeare’s theatrical company, particularly the female roles, and Claeren will play that main character.

“There’s more pressure playing this character,” says Claeren of the extensive amount of memorization he will endure. “But if I mess up, I can say what I want.”

Though Claeren is playing one character, there are several roles within that one character. Pickleherring recounts Shakespearean plays such as The Tempest and explains circumstances that led Shakespeare to write these masterpieces.

Pickleherring uses simple props from the set, such as a scarf to emulate certain characters. And the set, designed by Diana Cadwallader, takes the audience to another place and time. Upon entering the theatre, the audience is transported to the aftermath of the London fire that gutted the city in 1666.

And the production is sure to have something for everyone, even if you’re not a Shakespeare novice. “It’s a mixture of new and old, funny and serious,” says Claeren.

“And we may hear some sniffles at the end,” says Whitton.

The world premiere is September 27-29 at 7:00 p.m. and September 30 at 2:00 p.m. at the Ernest Stone Performing Arts Theatre, JSU. Fore reservations and performance information, call the theatre box office at 256-782-5648.

The play does contain some lewd humor and viewer discretion is advised.


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