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Making Shakespeare shine with The Simpsons

Rick Miller brings Shakespeare alive to a new generation through the voices of characters from The Simpsons.

Rick Miller doesn't think William Shakespeare intended for high school students to pore exhaustedly over dog-eared copies of Macbeth.

Instead, he thinks the play should be performed ... specifically in a one-man show featuring 50 characters from The Simpsons, including Barney Gumble as MacDuff, Mr. Burns as King Duncan, and Homer as the title character: MacHomer.

"In a way, this is my tribute to Shakespeare -- to make his words shine through these turn-of-the-millennium characters, these pathetic louts," says Miller, who does all 50 characters himself and who will bring them to the production of MacHomer at Zoellner Arts Center on Oct. 30.

"I think Shakespeare was a lot more about entertaining than people think," Miller says. "I go to schools and ask, 'Who here hates Shakespeare?' and about half of them raise their hands. Then I ask, 'Why?' and they say,'Because it's boring' or 'I don't understand it,' not realizing that it's boring because they don't understand it. Then all of a sudden they hear Principal Skinner's voice and it becomes a little clearer."

Miller got the idea for MacHomer 11 years ago when he was sitting backstage as Murder #2 in a production of Macbeth.

"I started to hear different voices in the actors on stage," Miller says. "Specifically, the actor playing MacDuff reminded me of Barney Gumble (and I since went on to hire him as the director of MacHomer). And I thought, why don't I make a cast party joke by casting them as characters from The Simpsons?"

Following the birth of MacHomer in '94, Miller took the show to fringe festivals, then to schools, then to colleges. "Before I knew it, I was touring all over -- I had no idea my little cast party joke would turn into a hit."

Beyond the 'this voice sounds funny doing those lines' concept, there's more. "You don't only laugh at these characters, you care about them," he says.

Miller hopes young people will see MacHomer and want more Shakespeare. "I'm not saying this is the way to perform Shakespeare, but I think Shakespeare would have preferred this to another bloated, ham-fisted production of Macbeth," he says.

Purchase tickets online or by calling (610) 758-2787.

--Elizabeth Shimer

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Fall 2005

Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2005

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