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‘All the Great Books’ offers a crash course in literature on WRLT stage

Stephen Hall and Francis Bleyer in "All The Great Books (abridged)"
Stephen Hall and Francis Bleyer in "All The Great Books (abridged)"

If you love a great play with lots of humor, great momentum, an abundance of characters and a lot of education, then “All the Great Books (abridged),” which will open Nov. 10 at the Warner Robins Little Theatre, will fulfill all these expectations and more.

When a high school realizes that graduation is nearing and a good number of seniors have yet to pass their final English exam, a remedial lesson is arranged. The English teacher is unavailable, so a gym teacher (Taylor Castle), a larger-than-life drama teacher (Francis Bleyer) and an unsophisticated student teacher (Stephen Hall) volunteer for the job, according to Celia Hohnadel, Warner Robins Little Theatre director. The teachers team up to enthusiastically get the students through all the great works of literature in 90 minutes flat with style and humor.

“We’re supposed to cover all 86 books in 90 minutes,” Hohnadel said. “You don’t have to have read any of these books to enjoy it. If you have read them, there are inside jokes.”

The action takes place in the school theater, with the audience in the role of the senior class, Hohnadel explained. The “teachers” use props and costumes that are available backstage, and they make up stuff as they go along.

“It is not polished; it’s very down to earth…it’s everyday people humor,” she said. “The play is really like Monty Python meets Saturday Night Live meets Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

There are only four actors in the play, but Hohnadel said it was not easy to cast the characters. The actors have to be able to cover a variety of genres, including French, British, Irish, Greek and Japanese literature. She said the actors had to be able to cover the literature with wit and humor and be able to improvise.

Three of the four actors were already good friends and added a “Three Stooges” effect to the play, according to Hohnadel.

“There’s a lot of costumes, a lot of props…it’s a lot to keep up with as an actor,” said Bleyer, who plays the part of the drama teacher. “It’s very fast paced; there’s not a lot of time where any of us are ever off stage. We each have our own little monologues. This is the smallest cast I’ve ever been in…three of us have the really big speaking roles. It’s been a lot of work getting all the blocking down…a lot of quick costume changes, a lot of involvement with props. We are fortunate to have a really good stage manager.”

“It has adult innuendo…no cussing or nudity…but they sometimes start a joke…but the other teachers cut them off,” said the director. “It is a lot of literature and fast-paced. Little kids will probably not like it; pre-teens through adult will like it. If you are a book lover…there are inside jokes, too, for the literary people…no matter what level you’re on…you get something out of it.”

Play dates are Nov. 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 with Nov. 12 as a matinee. Evening performances start at 8 p.m. and the Sunday matinee starts at 2:30 p.m. General admission is $16. Students, senior citizens and active military (ID required) are $14, according to Hohnadel.

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