VPR Backstage: Much Ado About Nothing

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(Host) For their eighth annual Fall Foliage Shakespeare presentation, Montpelier’s Lost Nation Theater turns to one of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff goes “Backstage”.

(Charnoff) “Much Ado About Nothing” contains classic elements of Shakespearean comedy: mistaken identities, practical jokes, deception and occasional mayhem. At its heart is a love story about two people who profess to despise each other. The setting is the peaceful world of Messina, where soldiers on break from war can enjoy rest and relaxation.

(Prince) “Come Balthasar, wee’ll heare that song again.”
(Balthasar) “O Good my Lord, taxe no so bad a voyce,
To slander music any more then once.
(Prince) “Nay pray thee come,
Or if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Doe it in notes.”
(Balthasar) “Note this before my notes,
Theres not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.”
(Prince) “Why these are very crotchets that he speaks,
Note notes forsooth, and nothing.”

(Charnoff) Kathleen Keenan is co-producing artistic director for Lost Nation Theater. She says one of the guiding forces behind the company’s approach to Shakespeare is use of the first folio text.

(Keenan) “What you see in the first folio, is all his original spellings, or what some scholars today would call misspellings. You would see all his grammatical errors, and his punctuation, weird capitalizations and things like that, because all those things are clues as to how Shakespeare wanted to hear the words said.”

(Charnoff) Peter Husovsky plays Benedick, one of the “nonbelievers in love”. He compares interpreting Shakespeare’s text to reading a musical score.

(Husovsky) “It’s amazing what you can learn just by Shakespeare’s punctuation, what a colon means versus what a question mark means, or what a semi-colon means. It really can guide you. Really, you can hear the music of the words, of the verse, of the prose of the poetry.”

(Benedick monologue) “I will not bee
sworne, but love may transforme me to an oyster, but Ile
take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he
shall never make me such a foole: one woman is faire, yet I am well: another is wise, yet I am well: another vertu-
ous, yet I am well: but till all graces be in one woman,
one woman shall not come in my grace.”

(Charnoff) As directed by Jana Tift, the musicality of “Much Ado About Nothing” is taken one step further. Kathleen Keenan has written original music for the production, turning spoken text into song.

(Keenan) “The music in this show, it’s not to propel the comedy, there’s tons of comedy. But with this show and this production, Jana’s desire was that the music would propel the romance. The music would be not the music of laughter, but the music of the heart.”

(Charnoff) Rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing started on September 10 of this year. Director Tift says that for the cast and the audience, the play is temporary relief from the course of world events. She has subtitled the production “Make Love, Not War”.

(Tift) “I think that every person on a small scale can make love instead of war in their lives. They can make the peaceful choice over the jealous or suspicious choice, they can choose to be compassionate, they can choose to forgive, and that’s what I think this play is about. When I was preparing to do this play, I spoke with another director who had done it before, and I said, ‘You know this play is basically about forgiveness.’ And he said all Shakespeare’s plays are about forgiveness.”

(Charnoff) For VPR’s Backstage, I’m Neal Charnoff in Montpelier.

(Host) Lost Nation Theater’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” runs through October 13 at Montpelier’s City Hall Auditorium.

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