Walter Evans, a professor of English and foreign languages at Augusta State University, loves the works of William Shakespeare, but he also understands why others find them difficult.
He recognizes that the Elizabethan playwright's famed propensity for playing with language, allusion, symbol and metaphor is also the reason students find his work inaccessible. He hopes he has a cure.
Recently, Evans translated the Shakespeare comedy/fantasy A Midsummer Night's Dream for a contemporary audience. The result, A Midsummer Night's (Sci Fi) Dream, addresses translation of speech and references.
The play is being staged today through Saturday at Augusta State's Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre.
"When you take a play like this and cram it down kids' throats, they just don't get it," he said. "What I wanted to do was make Shakespeare accessible."
For Evans, that meant recasting some characters, moving the action from an imagined ancient Athens, and finding modern equivalents for major plot points. The result is a play that finds Jaguar Woods, the mayor of Augusta, and his bride, Sarah Palin, embroiled with aliens on a local golf course. Deke Copenhaver -- referred to as Duke Deke, Katie Couric and a comic grounds crew also make appearances.
References are made to technology, pop culture and current events. Evans said the challenge of the translation was finding the contemporary equivalent to references made by Shakespeare.
"I saw popular culture as being the modern equivalent of the Greek mythology he used," he said.
The play features music by local musician/composer Carl Purdy and is directed by theater veteran Steve Walpert. Evans said it was Walpert who first suggested he try his treatment on Midsummer.
"Originally, what I wanted to do was Macbeth ," he said. "But nobody else was really interested. Thank God for that. This was a brilliant stroke of luck, really, because it has turned out to be so much fun."
Evans said he was careful to consider the playwright's intent. Lines that were written in open verse remained that way, and lines that were written in particular rhythms or rhyme schemes also retained that style.
"When you go through it so carefully, you learn a lot about William Shakespeare," he said.