“What did you do over fall break?”
Members of the IWU Theatre Guild’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” spent their break on tour. Shakespeare’s classic comedy played on the IWU campus at the end of September through early October. but the show did not come to a typical close. The cast and minimal crew struck the set from IWU’s Black Box Theatre, knowing in just two weeks, they would, quite literally, take the show on the road.
“We kind of cryogenically froze it,” said Dr. Greg Fiebig, IWU professor of Communication and Theatre and the director of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“Because we did the show sans set, it made it very easy to pack everything up in a trailer and just go,” said Lauren Crane (jr), who played Hero, a boy, and the Sexton.
The production utilized a unique style called “Original Practices.” The idea was to investigate practices Shakespeare would have used back in London in the 1600s and co-opt them while simultaneously making them accessible for audiences today. When Fiebig cast the show, he purposely cast six men and six women to play all of the twenty-two roles. Some of Shakespeare’s plays had up to fifty characters, and his actors would have played multiple parts. Fiebig also cast himself, to give the students a taste of what is called an Actors’ Renaissance style of theatre.
“In Shakespeare’s day, there wouldn’t have been a director at all,” said Fiebig. “The first modern directors didn’t appear until the late 1800s in Germany. Shakespeare’s actors directed themselves. During the rehearsal process, I directed ‘incognito,’ as it were. I acted as a ‘traffic cop’ for Shakespeare’s Act I, and then handed the staging of Shakespeare’s Acts II, III, IV, a
nd V over to four of my actors.”
IWU’s “Much Ado” troupe was company-managed by senior Honey Carr, who arranged and planned the tour of the show as her senior project. She was responsible to contact venues for performances and organize transportation, housing, and meals for the troupe.
The tour first took them, oddly enough, to Marion…..Ohio and The Palace Theatre on October 19. It was very different for the cast to perform in a proscenium-style space after the close quarters of IWU’s Black Box. For example, in the scene directly following intermission, the actors playing Dogberry and Verges would normally pull audience members up onto the stage and make them a part of the scene.
“The audience members were pretty far away, so it seemed as if it was harder to connect with them. That’s really the nature of a proscenium-style space—it’s designed to place that distance and disconnect between actors and audience. Trying to break that disconnect and stay true to the style of the show was difficult,” said Rachel Beckner, (jr) who played the roles of Antonio, Balthasar, and George Seacoal.
The second leg of the tour took the troupe to the outlying IWU campus in Florence, Kentucky, where they performed a matinee and evening performance on Saturday, October 20. IWU Theatre Guild alums Tim and Grace Rockstroh served as site coordinators for the Florence performances.
The cast agreed the experience has been unique and fun-filled, but they were glad to finally put the show to rest, since some are also heavily involved in the rehearsal process for the IWU Theatre Guild’s next production, George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” which will play November 8 through 10 and 15 through 17 in IWU’s Black Box Theatre.