‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Angel Park

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

For the second time this season, the University theatre department will welcome Shakespeare to the stage.

“Much Ado About Nothing” will open at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 19 and run through Thursday, April 21, at Angel Park in downtown Sewanee. “Much Ado About Nothing” is the comedic story of two pairs of lovers and their antithetical approaches to romance. Claudio, a soldier in love with Hero, intends to marry his beloved, while Benedick, who despises marriage, attempts to guard himself from Beatrice, whom he has loved for much of his life.

The performance will be directed by Dakota Collins, a senior theatre major who played Hamlet in the fall production of “Hamlet.” Collins has been acting since he was 15, frequently spending summers with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Apprentice Company program.

“What I love about directing is what I love about Shakespeare — it’s all there on the page. My job as I see it is to understand how the language works as thoroughly as I can, and then point the actors towards how they can see what Shakespeare’s written for them on the page and use that to help the audience see and hear the story. What I love is seeing the moment where it clicks and the actor feels the language in their body and the story is really there. It’s like magic,” Collins said.

Collins added that the show will feature puppetry designed and operated by costume designer Emma Miller.

Also taking part in the performance is junior Kristopher Kennedy, who will be playing the role of Benedick. Kennedy said he sees Benedick as a sort of fatalist, a soldier convinced that he will die any day and thus, looking for love is pointless.

“Benedick has always been one of my favorite characters in all of Shakespeare because that kind of emotional invulnerability masked by humor is something [that is] painfully relatable [to me]. Benedick’s arc is basically him moving from being a man who refuses to love to a man fully committed to love’s ideals and willing to risk his own life for them,” Kennedy said. “When he was younger, he probably didn’t think he’d live to see 30, and so he protected himself from surrendering to any of life’s loveliness, because he saw his own mortal soul as a liability in any permanent endeavor, like marriage.”

Throughout the play, Benedick is worn down by Beatrice’s wit, tenacity and independence. Kennedy describes the transformation Benedick undergoes as a complete one-eighty.

“Benedick made his life one of impermanence and transience, and so he blanches from the beautiful things in life that require others, including Beatrice, the woman he’s known and loved. But then suddenly he learns that all is not lost: Beatrice loves him, and this opens everything up – there’s hope for love, and with that hope, there’s suddenly a life worth living for. From then on, the rest of Benedick’s actions are informed by his love for Beatrice, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Kennedy said.

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