by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
James Bond tackles Shakespeare’s entire body of work in just over an hour to bring laughter and libations to the Tallahassee stage with Southern Shakespeare’s dinner theater production of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) revised.”
Three actors will attempt to perform all of Shakespeare’s plays in 97 minutes at The Moon in the production Nov. 29-30.
Though it is a truth penned by playwright William Shakespeare that “all the world’s a stage,” the world, too, holds intimate truths that propel our stories. As individuals and as a collective, we strive toward greatness in our story, whether we “be born great,” “achieve greatness,” or “have greatness thrust on us.”
And with greatness comes the ability to balance light and dark, art and music, and even love and hate. “If music be the fool of love, play on,” however if innocence serves you wrong, “be the serpent under’t.” Ultimately, it is essential “to thine own self be true” to be true to all.
Theater artist James Bond acknowledges that stage and the greatness it has brought to his life. Like the Southern Shakespeare Company’s (SSC) production of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) revised,” director Bond is a compilation of different theatrical works that have each shaped his life and career.
“I don’t remember a time before being exposed to Shakespeare. Ours was the kind of house where his quotes were tossed around casually in conversation,” Bond said. “By my teens, however, I had learned that if a production were mishandled, it could be long and laborious, but if it was well done, it could explode your mind and make your heart soar!”
Bond grew up in a family of singers, musicians, dancers, and writers – all with a deep love for the arts. He credits his mother for cultivating his love of theater. At an early age, they’d travel from Long Island once a month to see a Broadway show or visit a museum.
“After that, you couldn’t keep me out of a theater,” smiles Bond. These experiences turned into a lifetime commitment to creating magical spaces and mesmerizing moments on stage.
With a Masters in Fine Arts in Directing from the University of California at Davis and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Management from Ithaca College, Bond has taken every opportunity to learn and train. Initially interested in entertainment law, his love for the stage won over, and he eventually jumped to the production side as a stage manager and director.
Over the years, Bond has directed over 250 productions internationally and has formed a deep connection to Shakespeare’s world.
After directing the last four productions of Southern Shakespeare’s Shakespeare in the Park, including “Macbeth” (2019), “Twelfth Night” (2021), “Much Ado About Nothing” (2022), and “Antony & Cleopatra” (2023), the stars aligned to bring him to Tallahassee as the Artistic Director for Southern Shakespeare.
“It just seemed like the right fit,” admits Bond. “People are the core of any theatre. The community behind SSC has earned my respect, admiration, and friendship, and I am very happy to be part of the team.”
Any director will attest that conveying a story is the most important when creating a fictional world. Bond enlightens the listener with a love of language when discussing Shakespeare, as the Bard himself would.
“Characters are always the primary focus of any production, but the key to Shakespeare is how you handle the language.” He continues to explain the commonality between how Elizabethan audiences experienced entertainment aurally and how audiences today take in entertainment visually.
For Bond, it is essential to honor the swift English language in Shakespeare and communicate a 400-year-old text to contemporary audiences through its rhythms, scansion, and movement. His process is to consider how this language was used then and how it will be received now. “After that, the result is magic,” says Bond.
The art of directing is one informed by the script. Bond begins with an idea or theme that is meaningful and worth communicating. Once the theme has been established, a vision for the production is formed.
Bond’s approach adapts to each production while fostering an open, supportive, and encouraging environment. “Theatre is the most collaborative art form,” says Bond. “I find that if the vision and predominant theme has been well communicated, the community it takes to put on a show will work together toward a successful, unified production.”
Bond is excited to continue this level of collaboration and creativity with Southern Shakespeare and the Tallahassee arts community.
Bond suggests that as long as society continues contemplating individual relationships with each other, life, and the afterlife, Shakespeare will be relevant. Yet, even for Shakespeare consumers, it’s essential to see these classic works in a new light.
In 1987, members of the award-winning Reduced Shakespeare Company wrote and performed the original “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged)” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. They delivered a wacky rumpus, raunchy, and radical compilation of all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in 97 minutes.
Since then, the script has been edited, revised, and shared countless times to laughs globally. As the director of Southern Shakespeare’s annual dinner theatre featuring The “Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) revised,” Bond views himself as a conductor simply trying to keep a runaway train on its tracks.
“The goal is something fast and funny with pockets that allow you to experience the essence and beauty of Shakespeare. The script is very clever and the actors talented,” states Bond.
In addition to the production, the night consists of a traditional British feast and a full bar open for purchase separately. With this trifecta of food, fantasy, and fun, get thee tickets to this must-see, hilarious Elizabethan romp by Tallahassee’s own Southern Shakespeare Company.
Read the article on the Tallahassee Democrat.