A chance to chat with Shakespeare

Actor improvises as he poses as the bard

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

Actor Rod Molzahn has been walking out on stage in a red velvet suit and claiming to be William Shakespeare for almost 15 years.

His one-man show as the famous playwright and poet highlights an evening of Shakespeare on Friday at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Molzahn's show gives the audience the opportunity to go back to the year 1616 and talk with Shakespeare. He performed in Juneau last year, and at that time he said audience members should keep in mind that they've gone back to Shakespeare's time. He doesn't come to the conversation with contemporary knowledge, and he said people should simply rephrase their questions so that a 16th-century man can understand them.

A former high school literature teacher, Molzahn taught in the late 1970s in Wenatchee, Wash., where he still lives today with his family. Molzahn acted in Shakespearean plays in college and summer theater, and portrayed Mark Twain in a one-man show. He said he spent five years researching Shakespeare and developing the character before bringing him out on stage.

"I started off with a well-rehearsed presentation, and somewhere in the midst of these years I decided to become improvisational with the character and invite the audience to ask him questions. Because of that, I'm no longer able to predict what the audience will do," he said.

His characterization has developed over the years, and Molzahn said his Shakespeare has become increasingly more complex as a person.

"I suppose what I've done as an actor is create a more complete personal history for him, and that makes him more interesting. It's been an interesting metamorphosis watching the character develop," he said.

The Shakespeare events begin at 4 p.m. at the Student Activities Center at Auke Bay, with the screening of the film "Much Ado About Nothing." Dinner will follow at 6 p.m., with stew in a bread bowl provided by UAS food service for $5. At 7 p.m. the band Dominoes will perform Celtic music, and Steve Bodner will play the lute.

Molzahn's performance is at 8 p.m. Admission is $5 for everything, and dinner is an additional $5.

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