Much Ado About Nothing by William ShakespeareKU Theatre
Director's Program Notes
Since Jan Kott’s influential text, Shakespeare Our Contemporary, was published in 1964, productions of the Bard’s oeuvre have consistently taken a modern bent. Directors such as Peter Brook departed from museum-like presentations of Shakespeare and instead contextualized his work according to a contemporary audience. Given the universality of Shakespeare’s characters and themes, it is altogether sensible to follow Kott’s directive to “remove the exclusive interpretation of Shakespeare from the institutions that had claimed him (academe) and return him to spectators.” Shakespeare was, after all, a popular playwright during his time and continues to have widespread appeal throughout the world today.
Negotiating this production of Much Ado About Nothing from page to stage has been both an interesting and challenging journey. In keeping with my vision to appeal to an audience consisting largely of the KU community and greater Lawrence, I wanted to be faithful to the story by setting it in a contemporary environment where its themes of romance, deception, rivalry, friendship, honor, and trust would be particularly resonant. Moreover, there is the tricky matter of somehow justifying the fact that Don Pedro and his men triumphantly return to Messina at the outset from a non-descript war in which “few of any sort and non of name” were lost; a conceit that could easily seem callous and confusing from a twenty-first century perspective. To better facilitate their homecoming and contextualize the rest of the plot, I have substituted Shakespeare’s nebulous war with Don Pedro and his men returning to a hero’s welcome having just won Italy’s version of the Super Bowl: La Coppa Italia. Their victory culminates in a week’s stay at Governor Leonato’s estate, during which time much celebration, leisure, and tragicomic hijinks are in order.
While honoring the artistry of Shakespeare’s language, a few minor modifications have been made to uphold the consistency of the above mentioned concept, thereby rethinking Don Pedro’s status as a prince and instead referencing him as “Capo,” the futbol team’s beloved captain. Within this setting Much Ado’s eloquent verse and witty prose are foundational to telling the story. Indeed, every character at one point or other engages in a “battle of wits” to poke fun at another, demonstrate their intelligence, and elevate their social standing. Speaking is therefore the essence of the play’s action, causing us to take great care of Shakespeare’s words and to heed the advice of his most venerable character: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action” (Hamlet 3.2).
Cast & Design Team
- Set and Costume Design:
- Dolores Ringer
- Lighting Design:
- Mark Reaney
*Appearing Courtesy of the Actors Equity Association