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The Reduced Shakespeare Company has compressed all 37 of the bard’s plays into 97 minutes and summarized 600 years of American history in 6,000 seconds. Now the bad boys of abridgement unleash a brand-new comic outrage on the unsuspecting public, All the Great Books, a 98-minute, compact compendium of the world’s great literature.

The troupe will make a stop on its tour of the United States 8 p.m. Saturday at the Williams Center for the Art. Tickets are free for students, $4 for faculty and staff, and $20 for the public. They can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

The event is part of Lafayette’s ninth biennial Roethke Humanities Festival,“The Book Re-Visioned: Crossroads of Traditions and Technologies,” which celebrates books and their many interpretations and permutations through exhibitions, readings, workshops, lectures, performances, and special events.

All the Great Books has played to great acclaim at the Kennedy Center, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The show recently completed a year-long tour of Great Britain and Sweden and is continuing with tours of the United States, Ireland, and Holland.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls All the Great Books “literature’s greatest hits condensed into a 90-minute roller-coaster ride of hilarity.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette labels it “brilliant, surreal comedy. Street buskers for educated grown-ups. Who knew Homer was so funny? Not Simpson – the other one.”

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a three-man troupe known for taking long, serious subjects and reducing them into short, sharp comedies. It has created five stage shows, two television specials, and numerous radio pieces. RSC applied its fast, funny, and physical approach to world history in Western Civilization: The Complete Musical, which toured the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The RSC TV special Reduced Shakespearecontinues to air regularly on PBS and is available on DVD. The group also wrote and starred in The Ring Reduced, a half-hour version of Wagner’s Ring Cycle for Britain’s Channel 4. The company has reduced the Edinburgh Festival for the BBC and the soap opera “Glenroe” for RTE Ireland.

Numerous other TV appearances include NBC’s “Today Show,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Entertainment Tonight,” CNN’s “Showbiz This Week,” and New Zealand’s “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.” The members also provided voices for Steven Spielberg’s animated film Balto.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is frequently heard on National Public Radio programs, including “All Things Considered,” “Weekend Edition,” “Talk of the Nation,” “Day to Day,” “West Coast Live, and “To The Best of Our Knowledge.” BBC World Service commissioned the company’s six-part radio series The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Showand The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas airs annually on Public Radio International. Both programs are available on CD.

The RSC has been nominated for an Olivier Award in London and a Helen Hayes Award in Washington, D.C. Broadway Play Publishing publishes its scripts. The group also creates specialized entertainment for corporate events and has worked with Time magazine, Motorola, Citibank, and Rotary International. A series of Reduced Books and a television series are in the works.

“Irreverent yet informed, the three performers apply a steady stream of sight gags, sound gags, even smell gags to a broad canvas, turning sacred cows into laughing-stocks along the way,” says the Boston Globe. “The deliberately loose edges of the show camouflage its careful structure, in the same way the trio’s ease with improvisation hides years of rehearsal.”

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2005–2006 Performance Series is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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