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Marshall B. Garrett: Why Much Ado?


Marshall B Garrett, Baltimore, MD, Director of “Much Ado about Nothing”


When Greg first approached me about directing for Hoosier Shakes, I told him that I was itchy to do Much Ado. Itchy is an understatement. I’ve been neck deep in tragedies and histories since directing Twelfth Night in 2014. While years are just numbers, since the last time I directed a comedy, I’ve gotten married, bought a house, earned two masters degrees, and founded a theatre company of my own. In that time, I’ve directed the Second Part of Henry VI, twice. And in 2013, I was seriously considering starting a theatre company dedicated to comedy exclusively. So while I was itchy to do Much Ado (more on that below), I was also just starving for comedy. Luckily, I get to do a couple this summer, first here, and then Knight of the Burning Pestle with the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp.


So why Much Ado? What is it about this silly little play that has me boldly telling a producer I’d never met which show I’d like to direct? It’s all in the title. Much Ado about Nothing. At first, it sounds like one of those “Shakespeare titles” that has nothing to do with the show, like As You Like It, What You Will, All’s Well that Ends Well, etc. I imagine all of those titles you can dig deeper as well, but that’s a tangent we don’t want to go down right now. Much Ado about Nothing is a densely rhetorical joke that works, by my count, on about 4 different levels.


To begin, he title is antithetical. Much Ado is chaos. Nothing is… nothing. So we worry a lot about nothing at all. That’s pretty much the play at its core. The play begins with a messenger delivering news that war is concluded and the boys are coming home. The play ends with a messenger coming in telling us that the villain has been apprehended, and the admonition to “think not on him till tomorrow.” Scholars tend to date this play around the same time as the Henry IV and Henry V plays, and Julius Caesar. By comparison, this play is about nothing.


Moreover, we’ve got the various and sundry meanings of the word “nothing.” It can refer to a non-entity or a non-speaker – such a one is Hero, the ingenue at the center of the play. While this play is celebrated for the grand battles of wit between Beatrice and Benedick, and the madcap antics of Dogberry and the Watch, the story centers on Hero and Claudio. Therefore, there is much ado about (around) nothing (Hero). The flashy distracts from the substance.


Secondarily, “nothing” is also a sexual pun, being Elizabethan slang for female genitalia. The play is obsessed with virginity, cuckoldry, and faithfulness. Since, short of a pregnancy, there is no physical evidence of an unfaithful spouse. It’s all reputation, which, as Iago would have it, “is an idle and most false imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without deserving” (Othello 2.3). The women are bound by their faithfulness to men, while the men (particularly Benedick) are celebrated and gently (if at all) chided about their promiscuity. Indeed, Benedick’s opposition to marriage is based in a fear of cuckoldry, while one of the first statements about him is that paternity of Hero is not in doubt because “Then you [Benedick] were a child” (Much Ado 1.1). Watch for the four women in the play – Beatrice, Hero, Margaret, and Ursula – and their relationships to sexuality, marriage, and men.


Thirdly, the word “nothing” was, to the Elizabethans, pronounced “noting.” At this point, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that “noting” also had three relevant meanings, all of which exist today. The first is “noting” as in overhearing. The play is full of observation, known and unknown, accurate and misunderstanding. Claudio asks Benedick if he “noted the daughter of Leonato”, to which Benedick remarks that he “noted her not, but I looked on her” (1.1). Antonio’s servant overhears (inaccurately) that the Prince intends to marry Hero, while Borachio (accurately) notes that the Prince will woo Hero for Claudio. Beatrice and Benedick overhear (deliberately) that the one loves the other, and are convinced to fall in love. And many more that you’ll see after intermission, and so I’ll save for those who do not know the play. Everything that happens in the play is the result of “noting” what others say or do.


“Noting” can also have a physical meaning, as in composing a note. I mentioned already the notes of the messengers that frame the play, which are again relevant here. At the risk of spoiling a 400 year old play, I’ll not go into how written notes finally bring the play to an end, but I encourage you to watch for it at the end of the play.


And, to conclude, “noting” is musical, as in the Prince’s “note notes, forsooth, and nothing” (2.3). The play’s dominant metaphor is in music. The songs of Balthasar, Claudio, and Benedick, and of the dances, are obvious. Within, we have references to measure, key, tune, verses, dances, ballads and so forth. Beatrice compares courtship and marriage to various dances, and was born under a dancing star (2.3). And, again, as the title would suggest, absence is as important as presence in terms of music. As you watch the play, listen for when we talk about music and dance, and when we don’t. What’s going on in the play when music is absent?


I have certainly rambled on long enough, and longer than I intended to. And so, I’ll leave you with nothing more.


Emily Robinson-Dykstra On Joining Hoosier Shakes


Emily Robinson-Dykstra, Chicago, IL


I’m thrilled to be joining Hoosier Shakes 2017 season!  Ever since I first heard about the company being founded, I knew it was something I’d want to be a part of at some point.  Having gone to school at Indiana Wesleyan University, I know what it was like to study theatre at a small university in a town that’s basically a professional theatre desert.  Thankfully, our professors (Hoosier Shakes Executive Director Greg Fiebig included) did an amazing job, despite our small department, at preparing us to be able to be competitive in this industry, holding us to a high standard of professionalism, and connecting us to internships in professional settings around the country.  But I also know if I’d had an opportunity like this in Marion as a student, it would have been immensely beneficial.  I’m excited to do my part to help kind of mentor the younger members of the cast and crew and especially learn from and be challenged by them and everyone else this summer.  I know what Hoosier Shakes offers to students, professionals, and the community of Marion is something very needed and special, and I’m honored to have been invited to participate this summer.  I can’t wait to see what the season has in store!


Katie Little: The Perfect Fit



My name is Katie Little, and I will be joining Hoosier Shakes for the first time this summer as a professional guest artist. I hail originally from Dallas, Texas, where I was blessed with a family and an education that valued the performing arts. As soon as I was potty trained, I was attending theatre camps and classes, and I performed Shakespeare for the first time with my fifth grade class at Fine Arts Day. Though 11-year-old me was planning to give an unforgettably profound delivery of her Beatrice lines, I’m fairly certain that the peers and parents in attendance remember my entrance more distinctly. (I fell flat on my face…literally.)** Thankfully the mortification of my Shakespeare debut didn’t diminish my love for the Bard. Last month I earned my Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin University, and I will earn my Master of Fine Arts from the same program next May.


Having only two summer months off from my MFA work at MBU, I wasn’t optimistic about finding a substantial acting job this summer. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Hoosier Shakes liked my video audition enough to offer me a spot in their summer repertory of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing, two of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. This job was a perfect fit for my summer, as it optimizes time and experience, of which grad students never have enough. Though I’ll only be on-site in Marion for 6 weeks, in that short time we will rehearse and perform two full productions. Since our company size is small (as was the company Shakespeare wrote these plays for), we will be “doubling” the cast. Thus, in this season, I will be playing four characters total, ranging from the winsome ingénue (Hero) to the audacious fighter (Tybalt), giving me an interesting range to explore. In addition to my personal character work, I will be choreographing Much Ado’s dances, and learning fight choreography for Romeo and Juliet, so I don’t anticipate any dull moments in Indiana this summer. I’m greatly looking forward to jumping into this exciting work with the intrepid company of theatre makers at Hoosier Shakes in a few short weeks. Hope to see you in the audience in July or August!


**I’m pleased to report that the 5th grade incident was my last on-stage wipeout to-date, and I intend to restrict all of my falls at Hoosier Shakes this summer to the choreographed ones.


Austin’s Story



Hello Readers! I am Austin Hendricks and I am writing on behalf of Hoosier Shakes to share my experience thus far with this company. I am a lifelong Marion, Indiana resident and have been involved in the theatrical arts since I was three. This is my first year being involved with Hoosier Shakes but not my first time experiencing the troupe. Before working with Hoosier Shakes I was a student at Community School of the Arts in Marion, Indiana and also a current member of the Indiana Wesleyan University Theatre Guild. But I’m supposed to be talking about Shakes! So my first experience with the company was last year when I heard that the Marion/Wabash area was getting a Shakespeare company. Already I found myself interested in somehow getting involved, whether that be as an actor or as a patron. So being the local actor that I am, I went to auditions and tried my hand at my first professional audition (only this year I would learn that I was wanted for the inaugural cast). During the first weeks of the 2015-2016 season, I worked very closely with Dr. Katie Wampler (the then Artistic Director) to try and work out a way for me to participate in the first season. Sadly, I was unable to be a part of that first season but still went to the shows to support the ensemble. I attended a production of Pericles at the Third Street Courtyard in Marion and I was blown away. Right then I knew I had to audition again, and this time be available. So I did! When I auditioned this time, I had gotten to know some of the actors from the first season who were auditioning again, as well as some friends I had made in college. After auditioning I was told a few days later I had been offered the parts of Prince, Peter, Servant, and Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet, and Don John, Dogberry, and Messenger 2 in Much Ado About Nothing. This is my first professional acting gig that I hope can begin to allow me more opportunities to professionally act. I am very excited to work with the entire cast and crew that is involved with these productions and I encourage everyone to come out and be dazzled like I was last year!

“Much Ado About Nothing” Featured Comedy this Summer

Did somebody say luau?

What do Tiki torches, patio umbrellas, Tiki masks, and Shakespeare have in common?

Final Mask B

Master Mask Maker Joanna Ruhl is hard at work crafting Tiki Masks for the masquerade scene in this summer’s Hoosier Shakes’ production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

Here is a sampling of her work. Joanna was Hoosier Shakes’ stage /tour manager last summer. Once a Hoosier Shaker, always a Hoosier Shaker.

Tiki Mask parts. Some parts are edible.
Pieces in place

Hoosier Shakes’ 2017 summer season opens Wednesday, July 19 and runs at the 3rd Street Courtyard in Marion through July 30. You can also catch us at Charley Creek Gardens in Wabash August 2-6.

Performances begin at 7:30 PM Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2:00 PM on Sunday afternoons. Come early for a pre-show acoustic set! ALL Hoosier Shakes summer performances are offered in a pay-what-you-will basis. If you like what you see, make a donation. If you can’t afford a donation, no worries, come anyway.

BYOB (Bring your own BLANKET), chair, bench, rocker, Lazy Boy, couch, etc, and joining us for a rollicking good time. Both venues have limited seating available, but there is plenty of space for lawn chairs and the like.

Final Mask A

On-the-job Training for Actors


It’s one thing to learn one’s craft from a class or textbook; it is something altogether different to learn your craft from a craftsman. Hoosier Shakes provides students with an opportunity to hone their craft while onstage under the careful eye of professional actors and directors.

High school, university, and community productions are valuable experiences for an actor with a passion for performance. Every opportunity to perform is an opportunity to grow in the craft of acting. Imagine, though, an intense professional rehearsal and production run of not one, but two plays in repertory alongside a New York or Chicago actor and a professional director trained in the style of Shakespeare’s original staging practices.

Last season, senior theatre major Beverly Wagner was cast as part of the company. Beverly struggled as an actor in her university’s theatre program, but one of the two professional directors saw something in her audition that compelled him to cast her as Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She grew exponentially as a performer over the three and one half weeks of rehearsals. Audiences were drawn to Feste and after each performance were surprise to learn that the actor was a student performer. Beverly grew more in three and one half weeks than she did the previous three years in her undergraduate program. The opportunity Hoosier Shakes provided to work with professional directors and alongside more seasoned actors allowed her to succeed beyond expectations.

Would you underwrite on-the-job training for a young performer? Your gift of $500.00 would cover a stipend for one student actor this summer season, or you could sponsor them for a week with a gift of $83.00, or $11.90 per day.

  • Sponsor a student actor for a day – $11.90
  • Sponsor a student actor for a week – $83.33
  • Sponsor a student actor for the season – $500.00

Will you help train up an actor?

Shakespeare gotta get paid!


Imagine a young actor living as a starving artist.

A few years ago, I directed a theatre production for a small, non-profit theatre company in mid-town Manhattan. I agreed to direct the show only if the actors were paid a modest stipend for their work. In NYC, the most a non-professional actor can receive is $150.00 per week. We paid our actors between $25 and $150 per week for a six-week rehearsal/performance process.

Near the end of our run, the producers catered a meal for the cast and crew between the final two performances. During that meal we took turns sharing our stories about what our experience together meant to each of us. I will never forget how one young woman began sobbing. She shared through her tears and broken voice how even though she’d been in the city for nearly two years this was the first time she’s ever been paid for her craft and the first time anyone ever offered her a meal as a way to say “Thanks!”

Help Hoosier Shakes say “Thanks” to our cast and crew this summer by providing a day’s worth of meals for one of them. Your gift of $10.00 will provide meals for an actor for one day. We have 16 members in the company and our season runs 6 weeks, so we desperately need approximately $16,750.00 (beyond our normal operating costs) to make the dreams of our actors come true.

Meals for 1 day – $10.00/actor

Meals for 1 week – $70.00/actor

Meals for the season – $420/actor

Meals for everyone for the season – $16,750.00

Help us say “Thanks!” You can donate via or PayPal. Just click the link below…

Hoosier Shakes Actors & Stage Manager present Research at IWU

Hoosier Shakes employs student actors each year as a matter of practice. Student actors are encouraged to apply as research assistants for Hoosier Shakes through a Lilly Grant administered by Indiana Wesleyan University. Students receiving an assistantship are required to present their research as part of IWU’s Honors College’s Celebration of Scholarship.
Conference Schedule Poster outside Leedy Banquet Hall
IWU students Gloria Billingsley and Beverly Wagner presented research related to their involvement as actors with Hoosier Shakes last summer. Wagner presented “Performing Shakespeare: Then and Now”, which contrasted performance during Shakespeare’s day with the performances during Hoosier Shakes’ inaugural season.
Billingsley, assisted by 2016 Hoosier Shakes Stage Manager Joanna Ruhl, presented “Shakespeare and Rhetoric: An Analytical Approach to Acting.” Billingsley led conferees through an overview of her background work to create the character Fabian from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
Ruhl published a poster entitled “The Cost of Shakespeare: A Visual Funding Comparison of Three Shakespeare Companies” including: Chicago Shakespeare, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, and Hoosier Shakes Inc. Her graphic display compared the companies’ income and expenditures side-by-side. Interestingly, while the three companies are vastly different in terms of size, their spending and fundraising percentages are somewhat similar.
Ruhl’s Poster Presentation

The Celebration of Scholarship occurred Thursday, April 6. IWU classes were dismissed for the day, which allowed students from across campus to attend the event. The event lasted all day and student research from academic disciplines all across campus drew crowds to the Poster Hall in the Student Center and individual presentations through the Barnes Student Center.

Ruhl, Stage Manager
Billingsley as Fabian in Twelfth Night
Wagner as Feste center) in Twelfth Night

2017 Summer Rain Location Announced

Hoosier Shakes is pleased to announce our summer 2017 rain location in Marion will be God’s House (216 W 6th St, just three blocks south of our outdoor location at the 3rd Street Courtyard).

Performances will take place in God’s House in the event of, or threat of, inclement weather. According to Hoosier Shakes Technical Director Ryan Akers, ” We will typically make the call to relocate to our rain location around 4 PM for evening shows and 10:30 AM for Sunday matinees.”

Interior of God’s House

“God’s House has a very theatrical feel,” Hoosier Shakes Executive Director Greg Fiebig stated. “The space is reminiscent of an indoor theatre back in Shakespeare’s day, complete with a balcony and thrust staging.”

God’s House is happy to provide space to Hoosier Shakes. God’s House, the 2nd oldest church building in Marion, is committed to sharing space for a variety of community events. According to God’s House Intern Director TJ Thompson, “we basically use the building one day a week. It seems a shame not to make good use of the space. We’re excited to welcome Hoosier Shakes this summer.”

Hoosier Shakes will be performing Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado about Nothing in repertory Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM July 19-30.

Hoosier Shakes performances are offered to the public on a Pay-What-You-Will basis. There is no cover charge and all ages are welcome.

For more information, visit or like and follow Hoosier Shakes on Facebook (


A hand up is better than a hand out

My name is Greg Fiebig, executive director of Hoosier Shakes. I’ve taught theatre in Higher Education for the past 20 years, usually at small universities like those in Grant and Wabash counties in Indiana. Part of me always felt a little guilty about teaching and directing students passionate about the performing arts knowing that the chances for them to succeed in the business were slim at best. I know how important contacts are in the performing arts. The adage, “It’s not what you know, but WHO you know,” applies to most any business, but for the theatre practitioner it is absolutely essential to know folks like directors, actors, casting agents, etc.
Hoosier Shakes is, in part, an effort to provide local college students with an opportunity to get their first real break in show business and to develop a network for success by appearing alongside professional artists and directors from across the country. Last season, one of our local actors later auditioned for one of the professional director’s home company and subsequently landed a two-month gig as an actor in Romeo & JuliLIT. So, the networking aspect of our plan paid dividends as well.
Would you help us give a hand up to the young artists-in-training? Your gift of $500.00 would cover the stipend of one of our student actors during our summer season, or you could sponsor them for a week with a gift of $83.00, or $11.90 per day. I cannot begin to tell you what it means to a young artist to get paid, even a modest amount, for their work. It validates their calling, their work, and their passion. And you gift today will begin to build a network in the business that will pay dividends for years to come.
Here’s how YOU can HELP —>