By Lisa Larson
For a pair who has made their name writing “abridged” versions of some of the most classic works in the world, the list of accolades garnered by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor runs pretty long.
Take for example, Martin’s litany of professional performance venues including London’s West End, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, the White House, Madison Square Garden and eleven foreign countries, just to name a few. But his claims to fame don’t end there. Martin toured for two years as a clown/assistant ringmaster with Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus and has done voice work with the animated feature Balto.
Meanwhile Tichenor cut his performing teeth on a “boldly conceived kindergarten puppet show.” His resume has since grown to include more puppetry, writing more than twenty plays and musicals for young audiences, television performances on 24, Alias, Felicity, Ally McBeal, and The Practice, as well as creating colorful characters for the “Complete (abridged)” shows he also co-wrote.
In 1993, Tichenor joined forces with Martin at the Reduced Shakespeare Company where Martin had been working since 1989. Together the two of them have been capitalizing on their ability to “reduce,” “condense,” and “abridge” a wide range of unwieldy topics—like the Bible and Shakespeare’s complete works—into humorous, digestible portions that delight audiences around the globe.
Both Martin and Tichenor graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with Martin receiving an MFA in acting from the University of California San Diego and Tichenor receiving an MFA in directing from Boston University. Tichenor is a former adjunct faculty member at Plymouth State College and Rivier University in New Hampshire, while Martin is an adjunct faculty member at Napa Valley College and Sonoma State Junior College, leading lectures and master classes at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, New Zealand National School of the Arts, and more.
Their most recent collaboration, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) opened to rave reviews in 2016 and tells the “not-quite-factual (well, not at all factual) story of an ancient manuscript purported to be the first play written by William Shakespeare,” according to press materials on the Utah Shakespeare Festival website.
Even their promotion of the play in written interviews as well as portrayed on YouTube, illustrate Martin and Tichenor’s talent for storytelling, humor, quick-witted word play, and puns.
“‘Long Lost’ is definitely a bit of fan fiction—our fantasy of what a seventeen-year-old Shakespeare might write about and what kind of interactions between characters we’d like to see,” Tichenor said in an interview with American Theatre. “Like Shakespeare and his sources, we’ve taken what was useful to us from the canon and changed what suited us.”
A Summary of the Play (abridged)
Many a playwright and Shakespeare enthusiast has likely longed to discover the manuscript for the first play ever written by the Bard. Rather than waiting around for someone to find such a treasure, however, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, decided to take matters into their own hands.
Combining the flavor and flair they have become known for with successful projects including The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged), The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), and others, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) condenses the poignant eloquence and winding soliloquies of each of Shakespeare’s plays into a ninety-minute pun-filled romp following the tale of a feud between Ariel from The Tempest and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Their rivalry creates supernatural chaos among characters from all of Shakespeare’s plays,” Tichenor said in an interview with the American Theatre.
Characters include Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, King Lear and his three daughters, Viola from Twelfth Night, and many more.
After opening to stellar reviews at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 2016, “Long Lost” comes to the Utah Shakespeare Festival in a regional premier, taking advantage of the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre to round out the 2017 Utah Shakespeare Festival season which will also feature Shakespeare in Love, Romeo and Juliet, Guys and Dolls, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Treasure Island, The Tavern, and How to Fight Loneliness.
“This is a season with something for everybody, and one that propels us into the next stage of our development as a theatre company,” says Joshua Stavros, media and public relations director for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
What audiences may or may not get from the “Long Lost” discovery is anything remotely factual or true to Shakespeare’s actual language.
“At least 60 percent of the play is actual Shakespeare, sometimes repurposed and put into weird and interesting new contexts,” Tichenor said. “Most of the play is in actual verse, either Shakespeare’s or ours.”
“I dare you to tell the difference,” Tichenor jokingly added. “No, it won’t be hard at all.”
Whether you’re a Shakespeare scholar or experiencing the Bard for the first time, it likely won’t matter, the show promises to deliver on all fronts.