Students Perform Much Ado About Nothing
Student Productions kicked off the 2018-2019 theater season with their adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, on September 6 and 7.
The play, written in the sixteenth century by William Shakespeare, follows the militarily victorious Don Pedro (Leah Miller ’20) to Messina, Italy with two of his offcers: Benedick (Griffn Congdon ’20) and Claudio (Katie Broun ’19). The three men are greeted by the governor, Leonato (Gracie Theobald Williams ’20), as well as his daughter, Hero (Lexi Zyskowski ’20), and niece, Beatrice (Elizabeth Roy ’20). In Messina, Don Pedro hatches a plan to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love, and, along with Claudio and Leonato, fnd themselves entangled in a plot that mixes elements of love, drama, and comedy as two love stories unfold.
This year, the summer play is put on by Student Productions (StuPro), a club in association with the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA). Graley Turner ’20 frst decided to direct a summer play during sophomore year: “I originally got the idea for this show last school year. I've always been interested in Student Productions and possibly directing, stage managing, or acting in something student-run. Since Lovell was being renovated this summer, leaving almost no performance space for the show, it looked as if we weren't going to have a StuPro show. That's when Roy and I decided that we wanted to do something with StuPro as rising juniors.” With director Turner, stage manager Erin Elbogen ’19, costume designer Carly Slager ’21, and twelve student actors, Much Ado About Nothing is entirely student-run. The cast articulated that although there have been some diffculties while rehearsing, the energy and passion from the group of students makes up for it. “It’s great because you see that everyone has a lot to learn, and still everyone knows that the collective passion is going to manifest into something great,” said Miller.
The smaller cast combined with the summer rehearsals have allowed for a lot of student participation in a more relaxed setting than productions during the school year. “My favorite part of the play is the fact that I have a serious role, but at the same time, I get to work with it in a very laid-back setting,” said Theobald-Williams. Roy agreed, noting how the cast experimented to create a unique play: “Throughout the rehearsal process we have had a ton of fun playing with the scenes and making the show our own.”
During both rehearsals and performance, the cast worked hard to make a sixteenth-century show contemporary and energetic. The actors and director used a combination of unique characters and abundant comedy to create a relatable production. Elliot Calderone ’22 (Conrad/Messenger) noted how “[the cast] really tried to take advantage of all the comedy that Shakespeare had left and sort of go wild with it.” Joey Rebeschi ’21 said that “the cast really brought the show to life through the energy and sheer fun that they had.”
Due to renovations in Lovell over the summer, Turner had to consider other locations to perform Much Ado About Nothing. She ultimately decided that the Thompson amphitheater was the ideal location for the production: “Much Ado takes place in the Sicilian Countryside and the amphitheater really echoes that, with the stone seats and the grass and Thompson on all sides. It really feels like you're in the world of Much Ado; rather than just seeing a show, you're actually living it. Also, it's perfect for Shakespeare in the Park!”
However, most rehearsals took place in Turner’s backyard throughout the summer. Each rehearsal was crafted around over a dozen different student schedules so the cast had to take advantage of every time they were together. “Rehearsals were really effcient. Because most days we only worked with a group of five or so, we got through scenes quickly. It was the most fun when the whole cast is there; we have a good time,” said Margaret Toft ’21 (Margaret/Sexton). In the two weeks leading up to school and the performance, the cast and crew got together to run the whole show. Sam Jenkins ’20 (Don John) described the experience of a student-led production as “incredible because of the sense of pride we have when we perform it. You think to yourself, ‘Wow. We really pulled this all together ourselves,’ and that is a great feeling.”