William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” was brought to the Whitworth University stage this month under the care of guest director Brian Tyrrell.
The play was delivered with a modern twist that, in reality, did very little to change the course of the show. “The only word we added that wasn’t Shakespeare’s was the word ‘text,'” said Tyrell. Shakespeare’s Elizabethan language is unfamiliar to many but proved to be a minor obstacle. “’Much Ado About Nothing’ is largely in prose,” actor Jared McDougall said. “There’s definitely a little more work that has to be put into it, but I enjoy it.”
The intersection of two time periods is able to be changed so little because “falling in love is the same regardless of whether it was 2,000 years ago or yesterday,” said Tyrell, and “Much Ado About Nothing” is fundamentally a romantic comedy.
“Theater is all about telling stories that, unlike film, are different every single night,” Tyrell said. The romance and wit is retained through Shakespeare’s lines, but much of the comedy is physical, and relies on the actions of the actors and actresses. The energy and choices they make on stage is deeply connected to the reactions of the audience. “It’s very symbiotic,” said Tyrell. “We give them a story that they respond to, and suddenly there’s this back and forth. […] There’s no denying the effect that one is having on the other.”
Relationships with the audience are not the only ones shaping a performance. McDougall, who played Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon, enjoyed the “duping scenes” and his grand entrance at the wheel of a bright-red golf cart due to hilarity shared with both his castmates and the audience. “We have a lot of really fun interactions on stage, and we’re all great friends off-stage,” said McDougall.
The cast was unique for this production, as it included a parade of professors in the role of Friar Francis, a character who saves the day with his quick-thinking and arranges the reconciliation of the lovers Hero and Claudio. Each show featured a different faculty member from a variety of departments, ranging from English to business to biology. “We got some people who are very involved with theater. […] But then you get other people who might have much less experience with Shakespeare,” said McDougall. “And it’s still been a lot of fun to be in rehearsals with them and see their different takes on Friar Francis.”
The cast and crew of “Much Ado About Nothing” brought Shakespeare’s comedy to the audience with their timely slapstick, awkward flirting and powerful deliverance of lines witty and moving alike. After such a performance, Whitworth can only wait until the actors return to the stage for their next production.