At last nights dress rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet, a dad and his two boys walked by partway through and decided to stay and watch the rest of the run. The little boys were enthralled. At one point, someone overheard one of them asking the dad what was happening, and he said to keep watching to find out and keep enjoying it. By the time the final fight scene happened and the tomb scene happened, they were completely engrossed.
We told them about opening Much Ado today, so they came back with the Mom, after a 14-hr workday for the dad and cancelling other plans for tonight. We even brought one of the boys on stage at one point where we invite an audience member up in the show. They’re coming back tomorrow to see all of Romeo and Juliet.
This little family has touched all of us so much in the last 24 hrs. This is why we do this. Why I agreed to be away from my husband and friends for 6 weeks and miss Chicago’s amazing summers, to all the sacrifices of a crazy summer schedule like this, to the bugs (and you guys all know that’s a big deal for me–haha!) and sweltering heat. It’s the hunger for a compelling story told live. I don’t know this family’s situation at all, but many audience members we’ll have this summer may never have seen a professionally produced play, may never have been able to afford one that came to town if not for our pay-what-you-can structure, and may not have experienced much of the world outside of their little spot in Indiana. But we’ve been able to transport them to Messina (Hawaii in our production) and Verona.
And we see ourselves in those boys, remembering the awe of our first live plays and the awe we feel now when we experience the transcendence of good live theatre. For me, stories help me make sense of the world and life and make me feel the closest to God in the telling of them.
Hoosier Shakes is doing something so special here and I believe will continue to do big things for this complicated and multifaceted little town and beyond
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.
Lydia Williamson- from Anson County, received her BA in Theatre at Fayetteville State University. Her most recent work could be seen in Actors Theatre of Charlotte’s BOOTY CANDY (Various), Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Constance), THE BLUEST EYE (Claudia) and THE PIANO LESSON (Grace). She would also like to show gratitude to her directors, cast and crew members for the opportunity to work with Hoosier Shakes and is in pursuit to finding her next stage appearance.
Emily Robinson is a Chicago-area actor and director who is making her Hoosier Shakes acting debut this season.
Previous acting credits include Ellen Van Oss in Two Rooms, a 2015 Children’s Theatre Ensemble member, Martha Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, and Gladys and an Accala Warrior in The Lost World (Three Brothers Theatre, Waukegan, IL); Margot Wendice in Dial M for Murder (Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, Cicero, IL); Gina in The Museum of Bad Art Plays: “Gina’s Demons” (Commedia Beauregard, Chicago); Sylvia Bryden in The Boarding House (Citadel Theatre Company, Lake Forest, IL); Kathleen Donnely in And Neither Have I Wings to Fly and Cecily Cardew in a staged reading of The Importance of Being Earnest (Shapeshifters Theatre Company, Chicago); and the Butler, a wife, and a dancer in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Genesis Theatre Project, Athens, OH). She has also appeared as Jennifer in the web series “Kole’s Law,” as Cheryl in the web series “Losers,” in a handful of short films, and as the voice of various characters in the syndicated radio show “Kids Corner.” She is also a company ensemble member, serving on the artistic direction team, for Three Brothers Theatre.
Directing credits include Julius Caesar, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Daddy Daughter Dance (Three Brothers Theatre) and Over the River and Through the Woods (Indiana Wesleyan University).
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts, with emphases in theatre and film, from Indiana Wesleyan University, where she also served on the University Players staff. She completed a semester-long, off-campus film intensive at Los Angeles Film Studies Center, during which time she interned with a talent agency. She also spent a summer as an intern with Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville, KY, as the properties coordinator and was also a member of the run crew and set-building crew.
Making his Hoosier Shakes and Marion, IN debut, Deon is a dancer/actor who earned his BA in Speech/Theater from Fayetteville State University with a minor in dance. Some of his most recent credits include: A Chorus Line (CPCC) A Year with Frog and Toad, and Go Dog Go! (Children’s Theater Charlotte), The Little Mermaid (Sebastian), The Bluest Eye (Soaphead Church), The WIZ (scarecrow) (Cape Fear Regional Theater), A Few Good Men (Theater Raleigh) and the New York Premier of ASYLUM (Only Child Aerial Theater). Deon is thrilled to be apart of such great story telling and sends many thanks to all those involved. Never forget: love ALWAYS, love ALL WAYS.
Emily Smith is currently a 19-year-old senior studying theatre at Indiana Wesleyan University. In her time at IWU she has performed in Macbeth as Malcolm and Fleance and in Into the Woods as The Steward. Before this she participated in several dramas and musicals in high school, her favorite of which was starring as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!. She is also active in The Attic Theatre which performs Shakespeare in the Park every summer. Some of her favorite roles in those productions have been Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, and Corin in As You Like It.
Although Emily’s favorite pastime is theatre, she also enjoys rock climbing, watching BBC’s Sherlock, shopping for cable-knit sweaters, going barefoot, and exchanging stories with friends and family.
Originally from Dallas, TX, Katie is currently a resident of Staunton, VA, where she studies in Mary Baldwin University’s Shakespeare and Performance graduate program and works as an education artist at The American Shakespeare Center. At Mary Baldwin, Katie has had the opportunity to play roles such as Sarah in Archibald MacLeish’s J.B. and Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while nourishing her love of singing and dancing in various community musical theatre projects. In Katie’s Shakespeare debut, she played Beatrice in her school’s 5th grade production of Much Ado, so she is delighted to finally revisit this play on stage as Hero and to fight her way through Romeo and Juliet as Tybalt and Paris with Hoosier Shakes this summer.
Before starting her graduate work, Katie received her BA in French and English Literature from Samford University and taught English in Strasbourg, France, for a year, so she is also a francophile with an incurable case of wanderlust.
Eily Hite attends Indiana Wesleyan University as a sophomore and is majoring in Theatre. Originally from Converse, she has been involved in Our Town as Emily Webb, The Sound of Music as Maria Von Trapp, Mary Poppins as Mary Poppins, and Into the Woods as The Baker’s Wife. Her previous experience in Shakespeare includes Macbeth as a Witch. Being involved in Hoosier Shakes will be Ms. Hite’s first professional role. She would like to thank the community of Marion, Dr. Fiebig, Jeremy Fiebig, Marshall Garrett, her wonderful family, and the Lord for his mercy.
Austin Hendricks is a sophomore at Indiana Wesleyan University studying Theatre. He is a lifetime resident of Marion, Indiana and a self-proclaimed lover of the arts. Being a part of Hoosier Shakes marks Austin’s first professional role. He is honored to have the chance to work with such great people and to grow as both an actor and a person. Austin has experience in both technical theatre and performance. He has worked as a stagehand, set designer, light board operator, programmer, lighting designer, and assistant stage manager for productions at Indiana Wesleyan University and the Community School of the Arts. On stage, Austin has performed in Little Shop of Horrors, The Formula, I, Pirate, Beauty and the Beast, Scrooge! The Musical, The Funeral Parlor, and And A Child Shall Lead for the Community School of the Arts in Marion, Indiana. He has also performed in Rumors and The Glass Menagerie for the Marion High School Drama Department. His most recent work has been on the IWU stage as The Wolf in Into the Woods and Banquo and Seyton in Macbeth. Austin’s favorite type of music to listen to when studying is classical, with his favorite composer being Vivaldi. Austin would like to thank everyone who supports Hoosier Shakes and allowing him and the other performers a chance to share their gifts, and the works of Shakespeare with those in North Central Indiana.
MELISSA HARLOW (The Nurse/Sampson, Don Pedro) is an NYC based actress, originally from St. Louis, MO. Having recently played the Nurse at Pax Amicus Castle Theater (NJ) and in the feature film Star Crossed Lovers (Open Iris Entertainment), this is Melissa’s 4th time in the role. She is in her 3rd year with the Northeastern Tour of Adventures of Perseus. Recent productions include: Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense (IL), Elmire in Tartuffe (NYC), Sister Aloysius in Doubt (NJ), Veronica in God of Carnage(NJ), The Volunteer in Cover: A Play About Trafficking (MO), and Prudie in Pumpboys and Dinettes (IL). Melissa’s second film with Open Iris Entertainment, The Writer, is currently showing at film festivals in the Northeast and Canada. In NYC, Melissa co-produces the bi-monthly performance series “Gigi’s Night” benefiting Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, where she also serves on the board of directors. She is also the co-founder of Stomping Ground Theatre Co. in Hell’s Kitchen, NY, a theatre providing a home away from home for the socially conscious. She is forever grateful to her Southwest Baptist University college theater prof, Dr. Greg Fiebig, her smokin hot husband Kerry Cissell, and her daredevil 2 yr old, Cora Jay.