Parkland days from first original Shakespeare production

Greg Gancarz 

Editor

Parkland will be performing its first original Shakespeare production this month, with the opening night of “Much Ado About Nothing” scheduled for Nov. 9.

Although Parkland has put on many Shakespeare adaptations in the past, this is the first production to fully adhere to the original script and dialogue.

According to the Parkland Theatre’s website, the play is “one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ deftly combines humor with wit and insight. Rich characterizations and relationships entertain, mistaken identities delight, political deceit and misguided honor nearly thwart the good, and love, in the end, conquers all.”

Director B.J. Gailey, who both acted and directed professionally before pursuing a career in education, said that he was completely confident that everything would be ready for opening night at the time of the interview in late October.

“We’ve been in rehearsals for about three weeks now,” he said. “We have about two more left. Of course, the design crew and production crew have been working on it much longer than that. The set at this point is about 98 percent complete. It’s very close.”

Gailey said it’s been about four or five years since he’s directed so he’s glad to be involved again. Overall, there are around two dozen people working to make the production a reality according to Gailey.

“We have 17 actors in the cast. In terms of students and volunteers who have been helping build, helping with lights, upwards of 20. We have a lighting designer, we have a scenic designer, costume designer, a lot of hands working together,” Gailey said.

Two of these hands belong to Chelsea Zych, who plays the role of Beatrice, one of the comedy’s main characters. According to Zych, Beatrice serves as “a source of merriment and wit in the show, and a foil for Benedick.”

“Ours is one of two romances in the plot, and it’s in many ways a precursor to the ‘you annoy me so much we must be in love’ [trope] that’s so common now in romantic comedies.”

Zych did her graduate studies in Shakespeare and the play has long been one of her favorites.

“I’ve wanted to play Beatrice for ages. To be able to do the show with a very talented cast and a great director and in my favorite theater space; that’s a fantastic bonus,” she said.

While the play’s setting is altered—being set in 1946 instead of Elizabethan times—the text is the original. According to Gailey, Parkland decided it was time to attempt Shakespeare with an unaltered script.

“While Parkland has done a lot of adaptations of Shakespeare, we’ve actually never done a full-fledged Shakespearean production. We wanted to take on that challenge this year. We felt we had the talent and the interest. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, probably his most popular comedy or second most popular comedy, and so it fit well in the season,” Gailey said.

With putting on an original Shakespeare production comes the challenge of making the dialogue, which is written in 16th century English prose, comprehendible to modern ears. Zych says it’s all about context.

“If Shakespeare was writing today, his plays would be littered with pop culture references and allusions to major events in recent history. That’s what’s in the plays now, we just don’t recognize the source material as readily as his audience would have,” Zych says.

“In ‘Much Ado’, there are references to Spanish novels, Greek and Roman mythology, philosophy, and in some cases, just words that have changed their meanings in the last 400 years. […] It’s our job to convey that to the audience in such a way that, even if someone doesn’t understand every single reference, they get enough to know when we’re cracking a joke, or insulting someone, or indulging in a romantic moment,” she says.

Gailey would recommend people come to the production because “it’s a really funny play,” even to those who were never big fans of Shakespeare in school.

“Our goal here is to make it accessible and to make it seem real. I think if people come see this and they’re like, ‘I’m not sure what I think about Shakespeare,’ I think it will change their mind. I think they will see it and be like, ‘This is really fun and funny, and these characters—they’re recognizable. They’re the same type of people we deal with today.’ The stories are sort of timeless in that regard,” Gailey said.

Zych recommends people come see Parkland’s production because she believes that anyone should take up the chance to see a well-done Shakespeare play whenever possible.

“There’s a reason we’re still performing this stuff 400 years after it was written. It’s beautiful, rich language and I defy you to listen to a whole performance without falling in love with a line or a turn of phrase. Plus, the show is funny. It’s about love, and mistaken identity, and casual villainy, and finding out you were completely wrong about everything, and making an idiot of yourself for the person you love. And, honestly, who can’t relate to that?” Zych said.

“Much Ado About Nothing” will have additional performances after their opening night on Thurdsay, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the same time on Friday and Saturday. Sunday, Nov. 12 will also feature a matinée at 3 p.m.. The production’s schedule will repeat the following weekend starting on Thursday, Nov. 16 and ending on Nov. 19 with another 3 p.m. performance.

While opening night tickets will be half price, all other performances will go for $13 to students and seniors, $15 for adults, and $9 for youths. For large groups of 20 people or more, tickets will be discounted to $11 each.