Guest post – David Belew, director of The Complete History of America (Abridged)

December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

From left, Michael Woods, Adam Kander and Mat Labotka

How do you take 50,000 years of American history, condense it down to a two hour comedic riff, and present it with just three actors performing the whole thing? That was the challenge accepted by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor when they wrote and subsequently performed The Complete History of America (Abridged). The show was originally written in 1993, ran for 9 years on London’s West End, and has toured extensively in this country.

Several months ago, Metropolis’ Artistic Director Robin Hughes presented me with the challenge of bringing this historical, hysterical comedy to the Metropolis stage. I then set out on a quest through the audition process to find the three funniest men in the Chicagoland area to bring the piece to life in Arlington Heights. I am pleased to report back that I succeeded in my quest. Adam Kander, Mat Labotka, and Michael Woods are not only incredibly gifted comedic actors, but they are also sharp improvisers who will keep the audience in stitches every night. I can’t wait to unleash these three wonderful performers on an audience in a few weeks.

I was asked what my favorite part of the rehearsal process has been thus far. The best answer I can give is that I love laughing through three hours of practice every night. Whether it’s watching Mat and Adam turn Lewis and Clark’s epic journey through the Louisiana Purchase into an old fashioned vaudeville routine, seeing the boys envisioning Madison, Franklin and Jefferson as aging stoners trying to create a companion piece to the Bill of Rights called The Bill of Wrongs, listening to Mat create his spur of the moment Medley of Broadway Showtunes, watching Michael play our film noir detective Spade Diamond try to figure out the mysterious death of his brother Neil, or marveling at Adam’s rap abilities as he works in Noam Chomsky while throwing down some rhymes about the Jamestown settlement, the end result is an evening full of laughter.

Our goal is to make it all look easy when you see it on the stage in January and February, but our entire cast and crew are working very hard to build a terrific evening of theatre. The cast plays over 50 different characters, and they all need costumes, props, lights, sound, and a terrific team of backstage personnel to make sure they’re in the right costume with the right prop in the right pool of light at the right time all night long. Whew! I get tired just thinking about how hard they’re working. Me? I’m just providing some guidance while I laugh my way all the way to opening night.

We hope you’ll come out and laugh along with us at The Complete History of America (Abridged).

Historically yours,
David Belew


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