T.S. Eliot once referred to "Titus Andronicus" as "one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written." Andy Batt begs to differ.

T.S. Eliot once referred to “Titus Andronicus” as “one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written.” Andy Batt begs to differ.

Batt, longtime managing director of MadLab Theatre, has founded a new MadLab offshoot — Shepherd Productions — at least partly to stand up to Eliot and stick up for Shakespeare.

“There are works like ‘Titus Andronicus’ that I have wanted to produce for years that do not fit into MadLab’s mission statement, not producing classic, established works,” Batt explained. “I wanted to produce ‘Titus’ as traditionally as I could, with some script edits of course, in an attempt to bring it to today’s audiences the way it was meant to be presented.”

Shakespeare’s goriest play, “Titus” teems with murder, mutilation, rape and cannibalism. It tells the story of the title general, whose triumphant return to Rome, with the conquered Gothic Queen Tamora in tow, sets into motion a series of intrigues and retaliations.

“I wanted to downplay the gore altogether and play up the intensity of the violence itself,” Batt said. “‘Titus’ has such a great story and has to be one of Shakespeare's most poignant tragedies.”

If Columbus audiences agree more with Batt than with Eliot, we can look forward to one play each year from Shepherd Productions, with Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and French writer and jazz trumpeter Boris Vian’s “The Empire Builders” as future possibilities. If Eliot wins, however, Batt said, “Let’s forget I ever mentioned it.”