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Shakespeare and ‘My Little Pony’ meet in upcoming play

Four individuals stand in front of a stage, looking concerned. They are rehearsing Shakespeare's tragedy "Titus Andronicus."
Cast members rehearse "My Little Titus Andronicus" in the Urbana First Methodist Church on July 24. From left: Nico Perez-Jandrich, Ellix Simons, Heather Smith-Holley and Marshawn Bingham play various ponies that are preparing to perform "Titus Andronicus" for their princess's birthday.

Shakespearean tragedy and “My Little Pony” might seem completely unrelated, but the Twin City Theatre Company’s next play combines the two. 

In “My Little Titus Andronicus” by playwright Don Zolidis, a troupe of friendship-loving ponies gathers together to put on a play that’s often called Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy as a gift for their princess.

“Titus Andronicus” follows the story of the titular Roman general who brings back a queen of a Germanic tribe as a slave for his emperor. She exacts revenge on Titus for killing her son, and he responds in kind, kicking off a cycle of violent retribution. In contrast, the show’s characters based on “My Little Pony” are gentle horses and unicorns who prefer song, dance and friendship to murderous retaliation.

For Heather Smith-Holley, one of the cast members, that juxtaposition is one of the appeals of the show. Though Shakespeare can be “really, really, really intimidating,” she said that combining the two in one play helps to make the work of Shakespeare more accessible for newcomers.

“It skims the surface, but it gives people a little taste of it, and you know, that Shakespeare can be fun,” Smith-Holley said.

Cast member Nico Perez-Jandrich said that even if the audience members don’t know the source materials, they’ll still enjoy the show.

“I don’t think anybody else should have any worries about if they’re not going to get something out of the script because it really does have something for everybody,” Perez-Jandrich said. “You know, big concepts — ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ — and then also some funny song and dance numbers there too.”

Missy Burke-Marquart, the show’s director, said that one of the reasons she picked the show was the flexibility in casting that the show offered. When all the characters are magical ponies, things like gender and race don’t factor into casting.

“Any person can play any part in this play,” Burke-Marquart. “I think that speaks to a welcome bonus and openness that is also part of Twin City Theatre’s mission, and that we want everyone to feel included.”

The show will be performed in the North Attic Theater of University Laboratory High School, 1212 West Springfield Avenue in Urbana. “My Little Titus Andronicus” opens on August 4 and closes on August 13.

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Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson covers arts and culture, as well as LGBTQ issues for Illinois Public Media News. He studied journalism, Spanish and theater at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has worked with Illinois Public Media in various capacities since 2021.

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