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University Theatre to Present Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing"

Friday, February 14, 2014

The University Theatre continues its 2013-2014 main stage season with William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith. Performances run Feb. 28, March 1, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and March 2 and 9 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Much Ado About Nothing are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Much Ado About Nothing tickets are $18 for the public, $17 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

Much Ado About Nothing offers a tale of two courtships. Beatrice (Sara Kennedy, Topeka senior) and Benedick (Zach Sudbury, Lawrence doctoral student) would rather exchange scorching insults than sweet nothings. However, the pair is forced to forge a partnership in order to defend house and honor, and salvage the true love of young Hero (Jordyn Cox, Wichita junior) and Claudio (Aden Lindholm, McPherson sophomore) after deceptions destroy the lovers’ wedding day. Comical officers challenge dastardly villains, honor and desire collide–and a story filled with laughter and love unfolds.

Peter Zazzali, assistant professor of theatre, makes his University Theatre directing debut with this fresh adaptation set in modern day Messina, a beautiful city on the island of Sicily off the Italian coast. When modernizing the play, Zazzali decided to transform some the characters from soldiers returning victorious  from war into champion soccer players. “The Sicilian summer of Much Ado About Nothing is filled with luxury, drinking, frivolity and quick wit—a celebration of celebrity.” Zazzali said. “I wanted something that would connect with our audience, provide them a way into the play without the contrivances of the original context.”

Though the play will be performed with contemporary costuming, Zazzali said the ensemble is working with voice and dialect coach Paul Meier, professor of theatre, to do service to Shakespeare’s original text. He considers Much Ado About Nothing to be one of Shakespeare’s most well written comedies. A linear trajectory of characters and logical sequence of events make the piece easily understandable to those unaccustomed to the heightened language.

The University Theatre will host more than 950 high school students from across the state for a special matinee performance of the play on Thursday, Feb. 6. For many of these students, this will be their first exposure to a live performance of a classical text. For Zazzali, the works of Shakespeare are meant to be performed. “I think the experience is going to be truly dynamic because Much Ado About Nothing has appeal across generations,” Zazzali said. “Young audiences can connect with young love, feelings of betrayal and heated, humorous banter. It’s going to be fun.”

Delores Ringer, professor of theatre, is costume and scenic designer for the production. Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, is the lighting designer and Rebecca Damren, Atlanta masters student, is the mask designer. Additional members of the production team include assistant director Gina Sandi-Diaz, San Jose, Costa Rica doctoral student; dramaturg Alice Hofgren, Waterville, Maine masters student; stage manager Megan Lethbridge, Dallas junior; and choreographer John Staniunas, professor of theatre.

Additional cast members include Joseph Carr, Lawrence senior, as Don Pedro; Alexander Terry, London junior, as Don John; Walter Coppage, Kansas City guest artist, as Leonato: James Teller, Pittsburg alumnus, as Antonio; Christoph Nevins, Overland Park sophomore, as Balthasar; Kevin Siess, Wichita junior, as Borachio; Tim Wilkinson, Shawnee senior, as Conrade; Elaina Smith, Olathe senior, as Margaret; Maggie Boyles, Les Brouzils, France junior, as Ursula; Blair-Lawrence Yates, Canterbury, England junior, as Dogberry; Michael Wysong, Larned freshman, as Verges; Thomas Tong, Olathe junior, as Watch 1/Hugh Oatcake; Dylan Foster, DeSoto freshman, as Watch 2/George Seacoal; Adrian Brothers, Lawrence sophomore, as Sexton; Michael Miller, Leawood senior, as Friar Francis; James Paisley, Kansas City, Mo. Freshman, as Attendant; and Corey Allen, Overland Park freshman, as Attendant.

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