Austin Shakespeare is back in the Rollins Studio Theatre this November, following up the fall’s staged reading of The Crucible. In a return to bard basics, Austin Shakes is presenting Much Ado About Nothing, a FULLY staged production of Shakespeare’s exuberant romantic comedy of well-matched feuding lovers. We checked in with Director Ann Ciccolella to see what twists the company has up their sleeves.
Unlike many other businesses, theater gets product up on-time and on-budget. The key to getting a show onstage on opening night is creative collaboration, even with a slim budget, severe time constraints and limited staff. Director, designers and actors rely on each other to stimulate innovative solutions. For Shakespeare’s most exuberant romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing—our company’s creatives in costumes, lights, sets, music, marketing and cast are all inspired by the excellence of Shakespeare’s script.
Back in August, our design team tackled the challenge of creating a romantic world; costumer Benjamin Taylor Ridgeway suggested setting the look at the beginning of the twentieth century …I responded that the period in Europe called the “Belle Epoque” would give us romantic silhouettes for gowns and military uniforms. The design team decided that colorful costumes would be set against a scenic background of white curves that will be colored with lighting. Set/light designer Patrick Anthony will utilize two interlinked “cycloramas,” i.e. huge pieces of fabric curving around the stage of the intimate Rollins Theatre. Featuring a large vine and flower-covered trellis, we hope the stage will evoke Shakespeare’s “Springtime in Italy” in the audience’s imagination.
Over three months, more than 100 actors auditioned for our 13 roles—more actors than we’ve ever had audition before (including some actors who sent us video auditions from out of state). The cast selected includes seven “alumni” who have appeared in various Austin Shakespeare shows before, and eight experienced actors who are not only new to Austin Shakes, but many who have only recently moved to Austin. With a professional Actors’ Equity union contract, many of the younger actors are gaining “points” toward union membership with this show.
In order to bring Shakespeare’s text to a contemporary audience with ease and clarity, the actors rehearse 100 hours. Alongside the director, stage managers, and voice and movement coaches, the actors build an integrated ensemble to share the exuberance Much Ado.
Our creative collaboration springs to life with music and dance. The main song of our show is fearlessly “anachronistic,” with a new rendition of the play’s famous “Sigh No More, Ladies” composed by Greg Bolin. Our “masked ball” dance will offer a smooth jazzy feel with choreography by Diverse Dance’s Toni Bravo, who has worked with Austin Shakespeare many times.
Since theater doesn’t enjoy the luxury of a lot of money, or a lot of time or a lot of staff, our solution is creative collaboration. Everyone involved in our Much Ado, whether onstage or behind-the-scenes, loves doing our work. Our goal is to share the “joy of life” that is at the heart of Much Ado About Nothing.
Austin Shakespeare presents Much Ado About Nothing November 15 – December 3 in Rollins Studio Theatre.