© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

After a two-year delay, NASCAR bros Quinn and Kortemeier return to Illinois Shakespeare Festival

Three men standing in the foreground play musical instruments (a banjo, a guitar, and two water bottles used as shakers) with large, exaggerated facial expressions. They are wearing casual clothing with Illinois Shakespeare Festival logos. Behind them are a red, white and blue lawn chair and cooler with a "Stay Wild" bumper sticker on it.
Pete Guither
Illinois Shakespeare Festival
From left, Thomas Anthony Quinn, Adonis Perez-Escobar, and David Kortemeier star in "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)," running through June 12 at Ewing Manor

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival opens this weekend and fulfills a long-awaited promise with the return of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged).” The festival favorite, originally scheduled for 2020, finds ISF veterans Thomas Quinn and David Kortemeier batting the Bard’s witty banter around one last time, this time with ISF newbie Adonis Perez-Escobar as their trusty sidekick.

Bill Jenkins said that directing “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” is a once in a lifetime opportunity — thrice, as fate would have it. Audiences went wild for the parody, which lays out Shakespeare’s entire body of work in 90+ minutes, when it premiered at Illinois Shakespeare Festival in 2008. It successfully came back in 2011 and was also slated for the 2020 season. 2020, of course, was scrapped, and the next year was truncated as the pandemic waned and the festival slowly came back to life.

Delayed, but undeterred, Jenkins returns for his third go-around with “Complete Works,” running through June 12 and bringing old pals Quinn and Kortemeier together again for their ISF swan song.

The writers of “Complete Works (Abridged)” left sections of it intentionally open, broke the fourth wall and asked those who perform it to situate the play where they are. Jenkins recalls a 2008 meeting with then-scenic designer Kevin Depinet laying out the premise.

“He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if something happened at the beginning of the show that nobody expected? Like what if an RV broke through the set?’”

Thus, ISF’s “Complete Works” was born. For their three-peat, Quinn and Kortemeier play the same motley crew, donning disheveled ISF swag and twangy accents — Kortemeier even sports a mullet.

“Now some of you might recall how it all began,” Quinn says at the beginning of this 2022 edition. “We were on our way to a NASCAR race in 2008. We got lost and backed our RV through that wall right there.” He gestures behind him at the theatre’s back wall.

“At that moment,” Kortemeier says, “we decided to get ‘er done and attempt a feat that had here-to-fore never been done in the history of the world, which was to celebrate the entirety of Shakespeare’s canon — all 37 of his plays — in just one evening. Long story short, we got 'er done!”

Comedy ensues. They are older and presumably wiser — like if “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures” and “The Golden Girls” had a love child. This refresh leans into how time has changed the seasoned actors, and the generational differences between them and a third performer, Adonis Perez-Escobar.

The third role has been played by a different actor each time. Perez-Escobar is a Gen Z college student from Orlando, forced to study Shakespeare and not, at first, believing that it could be relevant in 2022.

“How could someone who wrote something 500 years ago have anything to say about the world we’re in right now?” he asks when first meeting Quinn and Kortemeier.

The point of the play is to challenge Perez’ assumptions. Jenkins similarly noted that the world is different than it was when he first directed “Complete Works,” never mind when Shakespeare penned these plays. America was in the middle of a great recession. George W. Bush was president. Yet, like the Bard himself, “Complete Works” continues to resonate with audiences of all kinds.

“It celebrates Shakespeare and it also allows all of us to have a good laugh,” Jenkins said, “a little bit at his expense and a little bit at our expense too, which I love about it.”

“The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged),” runs through June 12 at Ewing Manor. For tickets, visit illinoisshakes.com.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.