‘Shakespearean Support Group’ Audio Play Holds Space for The Bard’s Characters


“Shakespearean Support Group” Promo Image.(Courtesy Standby For Places Podcast)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


On Aug 31, local playwright and University of Utah alum Kimi Handa Brown’s audio play “Shakespearean Support Group” premiered on the “Standby for Places” podcast. The audio play reimagines secondary characters from Shakespeare’s most popular works as they enter a support group to work through the remnants of their tragedies and trauma — providing a modern twist on Shakespearean drama that is unlike its predecessors.

An Unconventional Support Group

The audio play begins with the introduction of familiar characters as they wander into the support group. Despite differences in time and place between them, the characters seem to transcend the Shakespearean discography. The characters featured in the play are from a wide range of Shakespeare’s works, including The Tempest, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet

Each of the characters is distinct and has their own personality that comes through brightly in the recording. Their interactions with each other are funny, mysterious and sometimes sorrowful as they begin the process of recovering from their respective Shakespearean traumas. 

The Director’s Lens

The idea of placing Shakespearean characters into a modernized support group is unconventional to say the least. Director Francesca Hsieh, another graduate from the U, was ready and willing to meet the challenge, and described the joys of production.

“It was really exciting. When I first read this script I was so so intrigued by it. Because these are all the plays that I read all throughout English class and [during] my theatre degree. These are characters that either, you know, you don’t get to know that much about them — or you do but there’s, like, things that aren’t finished with their story, which I feel like was what drew the playwright to these characters in the beginning,” she said.

There is something cathartic about witnessing beloved Shakespeare characters deal with their trauma while imparting contemporary concepts into the group. Several of the female characters talk about struggles of self-identity after marriage and dealing with abusive relationships. There are discussions of using they/them pronouns for a character and an empathetic twist near the end of the play that truly makes the experience insightful and reflective. 

“It’s so fun to get to kind of explore deeper who they are and what is going on in their minds than you do in the actual text. It’s kind of like the best form of fan-fiction, where you get to play with these characters who you love and get to give them sort of the life and the experience that you wish they had,” said Hsieh. “I think it’s definitely daunting that they’re these iconic characters in these iconic plays, but at the same time there’s something so familiar about all of them that it feels very warm and friendly to come back to them.” 

Shakespearean Support Group offers a refreshingly reflective contemporary twist on some of the most beloved works of the English playwright. For audiences who wonder what happened to their favorite Shakespearean side characters or those who value a modernized version of Shakespearean drama, this audio play is definitely worth a listen. 


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