Shelshocked: Shel’s Shorts Preview
Shel Silverstein invited you to read his poems when you were a kid, and now Maddy Oswald ’14 invites you to see another side of Silverstein this weekend, one that may make your mother reconsider “Where the Sidewalk Ends” as a good choice for a bedtime book. Oswald and student directors Locke Alexander ’14, Josh Cohen ’14, Tess Jonas ’15, Matt Krakaur ’14, Matt Leibowitz ’14, and Amanda Sonnenschein ’14, have collaborated to bring six of Silverstein’s quick and dirty plays to life.
The ’92 Theater will transform this weekend into a venue for the distinguished illustrations of Silverstein that every good kid of the ’90s grew up with. Each of the six plays takes up a small area of the theater in its own black-and-white cartoon set. The audience will begin the show onstage and continue around the theater from play to play until they reach the exit that reads “Abandon All Hope.” Only 50 people at a time will be able to see the performance due to its mobile nature, making this show more exclusive than others in the ’92.
Although each play only has two or three cast members, the Shel’s Shorts cast list is anything but short. Actors in the team include Solomon Billinkoff ’14, Sarah Corey ’15, Gabe Frankel ’15, Gabe Gordon ’15, Brett Keating ’15, Leah Khambata ’14, Noah Masur ’15, Olivia May ’14, Theodora Messalas ’15, Grace Nix ’15, Roxie Pell ’15, Mark Popinchalk ’13, Scotty Shoemaker ’13, and Richard Starzec ’14. Such a large array of some of Wesleyan’s best actors and directors led to a wonderful opportunity for collaboration.
“Since it’s such quirky material, we didn’t have a clear vision going in,” Jonas said. “That left room for a lot of creative exchange.”
Jonas also commented on the benefits of having a small and large cast all in one. “A small cast equals easy rehearsal schedules. A large cast equals a crazy cast party.”
Each play shows remnants of the Shel we know and love. The characters speak in nonsensical language at which you can’t help but giggle childishly. But it doesn’t take long for the first potty-mouth word to escape, and the audience will quickly realize they are on the other side of Silverstein’s brain. Despite the ridiculous nature of each play, each one is slightly relatable. Have you ever had a significant other who was a complete animal? Or how about constant interaction with someone who just gave way too much information? Has someone ever made a sound so annoying that you were sure you were going to go insane? Do you think ducks are kind of cute yet creepy? Have you seriously considered Koreans in any capacity in the past 24 hours? Have you always wanted a pony? Then, dear reader, this is the show for you!
If you aren’t already determined to come see some of Wesleyan’s best actors blow your mind with these stimulating questions, there’s an extra intellectual incentive if you come to the Saturday matinee performance: after the 2 p.m. show, Wesleyan-affiliated writer Anthony Valerio will be giving a talk to the cast and audience. Valerio was a personal friend and now a biographer of Silverstein, and his talk promises insight into the life and twisted mind of a childhood hero.
Shel’s Shorts is an enthralling break from the usual theatergoing experience. It’s a chance to bounce back into your childhood while also enjoying a crude joke or two (hundred). Come see vacations, the workplace, bath time, inspections, and adventures all get redefined in the head of Shel Silverstein.