TEENAGE DICK was commissioned and developed by The Apothetae, Directed by cast member Gregg Mozgala, a company dedicated to plays that explore and illuminate the “Disabled Experience.”
It is a brilliantly hilarious take on Richard III, Shakespeare’s classic tale of power lust, TEENAGE DICK reimagines the most famous disabled character of all time as a 16-year-old outsider in the deepest winter of his discontent: his junior year at Roseland High. Picked on because of his cerebral palsy (as well as his sometimes creepy Shakespearean way of speaking), Richard is determined to have his revenge and make his name by becoming president of the senior class. But as he manipulates and crushes the obstacles to his electoral success, Richard finds himself faced with a decision he never expected would be his to make: is it better to be loved or feared?
Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Present Laughter, Hand to God) directs Mike Lew’s (Tiger Style!) devastatingly funny, sharply written new play about perception, disability and the lengths we’re willing to go to rise above our station in life… and high school.
Watch the promo here!
Playwright Mike Lew explains how TEENAGE DICK came about:
“Gregg’s proposal to rewrite the classic tale of Richard III brought me a great deal of trepidation: why adapt Richard III as opposed to just doing another production of the original? And I think the answer to that is that if we’re to examine the disabled experience we have to both acknowledge and in some way disrupt our forebears. I’ve grown to realize Teenage Dick is part of a whole subclass of new plays that use existing works as a jumping-off point to say something entirely new, but more importantly to break up the canon and make more room for marginalized groups. I’m thinking particularly of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon (which re-appropriates Black stock characters from melodrama to redefine our contemporary understanding of Blackness), or David Adjmi’s 3C (which subverts the gay stereotypes from Three’s Company and the golden age of sitcoms), or Jiehae Park’s Peerless (which uses Macbeth’s Shakespearean ambition as a pointed critique of the stereotypes around Asian overachievement). In these plays adaptation is a subversive act. By undermining the dominant stereotypes of a marginalized group we seek to re-center that group so that they are the tellers of their own stories.
In my case Teenage Dick is meant to take the most famous disabled character of all time and challenge Shakespeare’s conception that Richard’s disability makes him inherently evil. Teenage Dick attempts to explode that old conception as well as its condescending modern-day cousin: that all disabled people are a metaphor for transcendence. (For a good year, Gregg kept sending me clip after clip of high school sports teams smugly including a disabled classmate on their team in a blatant attempt at demonstrative inclusivity.) It’s my hope that Teenage Dick takes all the drama and stakes of murderous monarchal succession and by cramming that into high school (which can also be life-or-death) we approach a contemporary resonance that a straightforward production of Richard III could never provide. But that is not the sole purpose of this adaptation. It’s also my hope that by exploding tired tropes about disability – those from Shakespeare’s time as well as our own – that this play will say something entirely new.”
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