Much Ado about Much Ado

One of the things that’s kept me away from blogging is Shakes.

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The front (and back) of this year’s playbill.

Urban Impact Shakes is a program that my husband  I created four years ago. Basically, we work with the Urban Impact Foundation to do professional-quality Shakespeare plays with inner-city teenagers.

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Benedick and Beatrice.

More than that, though, Shakes is a mentorship program. We spend 6 hours per day, 4 or 5 days per week for 7 weeks with these kids, and then take them on a 4-day tour- to say we get to know them would be the understatement of the year. Throughout the play, the students yell “STOP!” and come out of character to relate something that’s happening in the show to something that’s happened in their own lives- usually a way they’ve grown spiritually.

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The “Bad Guys”- Conrade and Borachio (Don John couldn’t make it to the photo shoot, unfortunately).

This year, we attempted our first comedy, Much Ado About Nothing! It’s easy to think that a comedy would be easier to perform than a tragedy, but let me tell you, it is so much tougher. Everybody’s read Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, and it’s pretty much in human nature that when everybody dies, we know we should be sad. Comedy, though? It is so temporal! Some things that are funny today won’t even be funny tomorrow! When was the last time you laughed at a malapropism, for example?

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Hero and Claudio.

Anyway, it was a raging success. Over 600 people saw it during our two-day run and everybody loved it. Laughter lengthened our run time by at least 15 minutes. I did some math, and there were 32 summers of Shakespeare acting experience in our 13-member cast. And it showed.

Our production of Much Ado (which we chose before we learned of Joss Whedon’s version, by the way!) was in a neo-folk style. Think Mumford and Sons meets the Bard. All of the music in our show (5 or 6 songs?) was written by one of our students, and was performed live on stage by 8 different students on 9 different instruments. Definitely a great addition to this year’s production.

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See the girl in the middle? She played Dogberry, and she’s the one who wrote all the music. She and the two Watchmen (pictured here) were responsible for almost all the music in the show- you should have heard the Southern Gospel-inspired funeral song. Brought the house down.

I’ll have real production pictures to share within the week, but for now I hope you enjoyed the promo pics!

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3 thoughts on “Much Ado about Much Ado

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