Preview of “Much Ado”

Visiting director makes much of ‘Much Ado’ accessibility.
, Detroit Theater Examiner
View original article here.

On Friday, October 28, 2011 the Hilberry Theatre will open its second show of the season, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. And it’s nothing like what you expect.

Yes, our favorite characters Benedick and Beatrice will still be there.  And all of the Bard’s glorious words.  But internationally acclaimed visiting director, Matthew Earnest, has reconceived the classical comedy of weddings and wit into a fresh party scene accessible to all ages and lifestyles.

‘I’m trying to make work that people can jump into and find a place within, be they 18 years old or 80, bus driver or PhD, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor,’ says Earnest.

Earnest, who recently co-founded The Lunar Stratagem, an international touring company based out of rural West Virginia, rejects the notion of traditional Shakespeare being represented by ‘Renaissance costumes and a mid-century classical acting style imported from the National Theater in London.’ He explains, ‘In the larger sweep of theatrical history, I believe that what I’m doing is stylistically much closer to what Shakespeare did at the Globe than what the average American theatergoer encounters.’

On Friday, October 28, 2011 the Hilberry Theatre will open its second show of the season, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. And it’s nothing like what you expect.

Yes, our favorite characters Benedick and Beatrice will still be there.  And all of the Bard’s glorious words.  But internationally acclaimed visiting director, Matthew Earnest, has reconceived the classical comedy of weddings and wit into a fresh party scene accessible to all ages and lifestyles.

‘I’m trying to make work that people can jump into and find a place within, be they 18 years old or 80, bus driver or PhD, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor,’ says Earnest.

Earnest, who recently co-founded The Lunar Stratagem, an international touring company based out of rural West Virginia, rejects the notion of traditional Shakespeare being represented by ‘Renaissance costumes and a mid-century classical acting style imported from the National Theater in London.’ He explains, ‘In the larger sweep of theatrical history, I believe that what I’m doing is stylistically much closer to what Shakespeare did at the Globe than what the average American theatergoer encounters.’

Earnest believes that Shakespeare’s themes of metamorphosis and self-discovery are a common human experience, not limited by any time period. As the director for this production, his process will include ‘working from [my] own heart, mind and experience to realize the piece in three dimensions in a way that will allow the play’s questions to be heard and understood by people living in their own moment in history.’

In collaboration with scenic designer Pegi Marshall-Amundsen, Earnest is setting this story in front of a lush green garden wall and on top of a bed of gravel, which will provide drainage for the rain that falls onstage during the play. Yes, that’s real rain – the wet kind.

Rain, of course, is often used  as a metaphor for an emotion or transformation a character is experiencing. Rain can represent tears, sadness, grief and death; it can also represent cleansing, purification and rebirth. But this will be the first time in the Hilberry Theatre’s history that rain will be employed as a scenic element, and for good reason. A rain curtain effect requires a pump for the water delivery, a series of nozzles on a hose or pipe facilitate the rain effect and drains in the stage floor to collect the water.  This means that Much Ado About Nothing cannot run in rotation with the other Hilberry plays – it wouldn’t be possible with this set design. It seems an exception worth allowing.

So you have four weeks to catch it.  The Hilberry production of Much Ado About Nothing runs through November 19, 2011, including three Tuesday morning matinees at 10:00 a.m.

Tickets are $12-$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972 or visiting them online. The box office is open Tuesday through Saturday from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., with extended hours to 8:00 p.m. on performance evenings (Thursday-Saturday).

And there’s more news for Shakespeare fans. This run of Much Ado About Nothing at the Hilberry Theatre can be packaged with tickets to Twelfth Night at the Bonstelle Theatre to form the ‘Shakespeare Comedy Package.’ Audience members who want to see both productions can save $10 off the regular price by mentioning promo code 30Q8 when calling the Box Office.. Twelfth Night runs December 2 through December 11, 2011.

Carollette Phillips as Hero and Christopher Ellis as Claudio at The Hilberry Theatre this weekend.
Carollette Phillips as Hero and Christopher Ellis as Claudio at The Hilberry Theatre this weekend.
Credits: Patrick Pozezinski

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