PROVO — In my latest review for UTBA, I praised the unique experience of the staged readings put on by Contemporary Voices at BYU. I loved attending the reading, but the script of The Clean House was not special. Fortunately, on Saturday I was able to see a different staged reading in the Contemporary Voices series, Shakespeare in Love, and I enjoyed this one even more. I had my doubts going into this as a staged reading because the chemistry of a romance is such an essential part of the film’s success. Would I be able to get into the story from just the spoken word? As it turns out: yes I could.

Show closes November 4, 2022.

Many readers are familiar with the original 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, which won Oscars for Best Picture and Gwyneth Paltrow’s and Judi Dench’s performances. The play (with a script adapted be Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard) tells the story of William Shakespeare falling in love while writing Romeo and Juliet. He starts out writing a comedy, but then he meets a woman named Viola who loves the theater and is disguised as a man named Tom Kent so she can act on stage (a forbidden practice at the time). The two fall in love, all while she is being forced to marry a brute of a man named Lord Wessex. As their love cannot last (Shakespeare is married as well to Anne Hathaway), his play turns into a tragedy, and Queen Elizabeth has something to say about all of the shenanigans going on as well.

I was also skeptical about BYU mounting a reading of Shakespeare in Love. It has been over 20 years since I graduated from BYU, and back then there is no way they would have done even a staged reading of a play based on an R-rated movie. Things have clearly changed. Plus, afterwards there was a thoughtful discussion afterwards (led by dramaturgy supervisor Shelley Graham) about gender fluidity, women and sexuality, double standards, and more. There was give a warning about mature content before the show (as there was before The Clean House), but I appreciate BYU for tackling such heavy issues at all.

I was worried at first it would be hard to keep all the characters straight in a reading, but director Morgan Gunter takes a large cast and makes the group easy to distinguish. Every actor’s accents were impeccable, and they all bring the necessary emotion while reading from the script. Adam DeFord brings boundless energy to his William Shakespeare, and Arielle Pedersen gives slightly different energies to both Viola and Viola pretending to be Tom.

The Contemporary Voices series continues through the end of next week, but this staged reading of Shakespeare in Love has only two more performances. I highly recommend this funny, romantic, thoughtful, and a genuinely unique theatrical experience.

Contemporary Voices consists of three productions: The Clean House (October 20, 29, and November 5), Matilda the Musical (October 21, 28, and November 3), and Shakespeare in Love (October 22, 27, and November 4). All performances start at 7:30 PM and play on the main stage in the West Campus Central Building on the campus of Brigham Young University. Tickets are $7-8. For more information, visit