In the third installment of my Minnesota Fringe Festival preview, I spoke with playwright Keith Hovis. His contribution to this year’s festival is Shakespeare Apocalypse. Its a comedy musical full of original songs and pop culture references. The show is playing at Theatre in the Round and you can find more information on the show and other shows playing the Fringe here.
Where did the inspiration for this show come from?
It seemed I was always at odds with my artist friends over the classics. I love reading Shakespeare, but watching the plays live does not get me as excited. This was almost blasphemous to some people. Also, as a writer I am always encouraging people to find new plays or musicals and support new writers. These two ideas melded together in my head and formed the heart of the show: What would happen if we just stopped performing the classics and made way for new work. The answer was obviously: The end of the world.
What challenges are you presented with when preparing for a Fringe Show, versus a show with a longer run?
The time constraint is the biggest. You only have an hour. Especially when you are writing music because a song needs to tell a full story or else why include it? It is hard when you only have an hour and need to make cuts so you aren’t over and you’re looking at lyrics thinking, “What can I cut that won’t hurt the song melodically or story wise?”
What do you hope the audiences take from this show?
Four things: First, I hope they have fun. Second, as a music writer, I hope at least one of the songs get stuck in their head. Third, I hope they tell their friends to come. Last, I hope it inspires people to go see a brand new show by a theater or writer they’ve never heard of at some point this year outside of the fringe.
When you originally submitted for the Fringe lottery, was Shakespeare Apocalypse the show you intended to perform or did the show change?
Yes. I have had this show in my head for a while and getting picked at the lottery was the inspiration I needed to sit down and put it on paper.
How would you describe Shakespeare Apocalypse to someone interested in coming to the show?
Shakespeare Apocalypse is a new, dark comedy musical. I usually say it is in the same style of musical theater as “Book of Mormon” or “Avenue Q.” It is fast paced and fun.
The synopsis is this: Peter is a struggling actor who gets his big break as a minor character in a professional production of “Hamlet.” During open night, he breaks down and goes on a tirade against the classics. His rant is caught on video and goes viral, with people across the world joining his cause and turning their backs on the Bard. Enter a royally pissed off William Shakespeare and his henchmen, Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen, who are tasked with completing a series of tasks to bring about the end of the world and punish all those who rebuke their work. It’s up to Peter to stop them.