The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1246  Monday, 6 May 2002

From:           Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 3 May 2002 09:56:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1238 DC Ado (leather pants)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1238 DC Ado (leather pants)

A great report Jimmy. I was intrigued by the concept and wish I could
see it.

> As the Accents thread has become more and more
> involved, I have given it
> less attention.  But I wonder, given the notion that
> accents might be
> some critical element of the production.  Does that
> mean that
> Shakespeare is too sacred for small companies (let
> alone high-schools)
> to attempt?

Indeed. I played Benedick in a production for the UCLA Shakespeare
Performance Group. We set Much Ado IN a high school setting. We
transformed the soldiers into football jocks and the girls into
cheerleaders.  Beatrice was a high achieving, popular and strong willed
young woman. Leonato was the principal of Messina High. Actually, as
gimmicky as it sounds, the concept worked remarkably well. It fit the
gossipy nature of the play.

We made the masque into a Halloween party and the marriage into a
Prom/Dance situation (crowning the king and queen of the dance) without
changing a single word in the text. Don Pedro and Don John were doubled,
with Pedro being the captain of the football team and John being a
leather-jacketed rebel without a cause, an outfit who wanted to tear
down the popular with enough of a hint towards current events to evoke
danger but not to be controversial.

I suppose the biggest problem for Benedick for me was rejecting my team
and my friends for a girl.  Nevertheless, the decision was easy when
Beatrice questioned my manhood. By the end of the play, it was quite
clear that Beatrice and Benedick had matured past the high school
setting but retained their fiery spark of personality conflict (much
like a couple I knew). "Kill Claudio" was greeted with a laugh, but it
was also translated into more of a "beat him within an inch of his
life". The only alteration (which I added for a cheap laugh) came in the
final scene when Benedick reconciled with Claudio and I altered the line
to say, "I did think to have beat the crap out of thee...". It broke the
tension and allowed the audience to laugh at the uncomfortable
situation. It would be a shame for such attempts to be branded
sacrilegious since this one worked so well.  Miraculously, in fact.

Brian Willis

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