By Cathryn Lien, Contributing Writer
The Bard’s most beloved comedy is coming to Asbury, but instead of lords and ladies, there will be flappers and dappers.
Director Ashley Clark, who also directed last year’s production of Henry V, describes working with Shakespearean material as “coming home,” reminiscing on a childhood in which her English teaching mother read her “Will’s great plays.” Inspired by her study of C.S. Lewis in Oxford, Clark noted the similarities between 1920s England and Shakespeare’s England.
“While looking back at [Lewis’s] early life after WWI, I was surprised at his lack of inspiration to get married and settle down. That reminded me of Much Ado About Nothing, specifically the main character of Benedick…I was convinced that [the 1920s style] fit the play perfectly.”
On the play’s plot, Clark said, “It’s the story of two couples; one head over heels in love, the other archrivals that may learn to love one another. These couples and their friends’ lives are turned upside down when gossip and misunderstanding tear one couple apart, and bring another closer.”
Sophomores Matthias White and Rosebelle Easthom star opposite each other as the “archrival” couple, Benedick and Beatrice.
“Benedick is very witty and sarcastic,” White said about his character. “He likes to make people laugh, but he’s also self conscious. There’s a few times where you see him worrying about what people think of him, and I think I can relate to all of that.”
Easthom recalls that her high school acting teacher once told her she was born to play Beatrice. Along with her usual cheerful demeanor, she says, “I also think he was referring to how much I hide emotion behind words. [Beatrice] has some killer lines that stab deeper than something I could think up on my own, but her hard heart is softened by none other than a boy—a boy whom throughout her history she has stabbed again and again with her blade of a tongue.”
The cast is made up of avid Shakespeare enthusiasts, like sophomore Anna Leigh Morrow, an English and Spanish double major who plays the role of Hero (one half of the “head over heels” couple).
“I’m interested in Shakespeare because his work is an intersection of my love for literature and my love for the stage,” she said. “I’ve seen several stage productions of his plays performed at Shakespeare in the Park in Louisville, but this is my first time actually acting in one!”
Sophomore Jeremy Simmons, who plays the villain Don John, doesn’t have a background in Shakespeare but is thrilled to be part of this unique show. When asked what he liked the most about the 1920s twist, Jeremy replied, “The Charleston! Who doesn’t love a groovy jig?”
The cast said they were eager to perform for the student body. “It’s a great group of people to work with,” said White. “We’re all here primarily because we love Shakespeare and love to act, but we’re also here because we love each other.”
Much Ado About Nothing will be filmed in front of a live audience in the Miller Communications Arts television studio. The show opens Feb. 11 at 8:40 p.m., followed by two additional performances the 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. Admission is free but limited seating is available. Tickets can be purchased Feb 8 to 13 at the cafeteria kiosks, or can be reserved by emailing email@example.com.