Students and faculty filled Murdock 218 last Thursday night as Timothy Mooney, dressed in Shakespearean attire, recited monologues from his one-man production of Shakespeare’s Histories: Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace!
The front of the room acted as the stage, with the set consisting simply of a sword and a chair draped in purple velvet. Mooney’s energetic personality and portrayals took care of the rest.
Professors Anthony Daly and Andrea Williams organized the hour-long event, with the History and FPA departments sponsoring the show.
Daly said Mooney, the writer, producer, and actor of the performance, had done a similar event at MCLA a few years ago.
“I thought it would be a great fit to host him again for this show, which brings together multiple aspects of liberal arts education like literature, theatre, and history,” Daly said.
Daly also spoke about Mooney’s performance regarding modern audiences.
“Mooney’s accomplishment in bringing together some of Shakespeare’s great writing while providing an understandable historical context introduces these works in an accessible format,” he said.
The one-man performance covered monologues from plays including King John, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Richard III, and Henry VIII, told in order of historical succession.
Mooney interjected facts about the figures he portrayed, aided by a PowerPoint projection, with the timeline stretching from 1066 – 1533.
Although Mooney incorporated humor in several parts of his performance, students seemed to like the historical aspect the most.
“The images and family trees displayed in the background made the performance easier to follow as it went through a variety of battles, kings, and heirs. It was entertaining,” senior Jaclyn Ordway said.
Pacing the floor with grand gestures, Mooney took on the role of each historical character and interacted with audience members, taking their hands, speaking directly to them, and making them a character within the story.
“I’ve been dabbling in Shakespeare since high school,” Mooney said.
In college, he took multiple Shakespearean courses. He then moved on to work as an intern at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
This, he said, was where he developed his philosophy of taking no pauses and barreling through to the end. He demonstrated his philosophy at the event, moving and speaking at whirlwind speed.
Mooney has produced nearly 50 plays and has rewritten 17 Moliere plays, turning them into one-man shows and going on tour to perform them.
Other productions he has written and performed include Breakneck Hamlet, Breakneck Julius Caesar, and Lot O’ Shakespeare, as well as The Greatest Speech of All Time and The Big Book of Moliere Monologues.
“I started performing Shakespeare’s Histories because I realized it would be a lot easier to understand these ten plays when you take them on chronologically,” Mooney said.
In “Shakespeare’s Histories: Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace!,” Mooney’s book corresponding to the performance, he states that Shakespeare’s audience came to these plays already knowing who these characters were.
Today’s audiences do not have this information at the ready.
Mooney’s hope is that, through his performance, Shakespeare’s historical plays will be less daunting for his audience.
“They should be able to go see any one of them and have enough context in mind that they don’t lose their footing and will have a few points of knowledge that will anchor them to what is happening,” he said.
Mooney says in his book that these plays contain political lessons, letting us see history’s mistakes so we may be able to avoid them in the future.
“The lessons are healthy things for us to hear. I want to bring those lessons back within our reach. And I want them to be fun,” he says in the book’s production notes.
Professor Daly hopes this performance gets its audience to think deeply about life, as although the plays are set in different times and places, they act as powerful echoes of modern times.