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A battle of 'wit rather than sword'

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Photo: Laine Girard / Grand Valley Lanthorn

GVL / Laine Girard
Grand Valley cast members gearing up for their upcoming show “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespheare.

In a battle of “wit rather than sword,” the Grand Valley State University Shakespeare Festival’s
production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” brings celebration after war. Running from
Sept. 27-Oct. 6, the comedy features visiting professional guest artist Chris Seiler, regional artist Gary
Mitchell, GVSU students and several alumni.

Guest Director and alumna Katherine Mayberry, who starred as Hero in the festival’s first production
of “Much Ado About Nothing” in 1998, took part in bringing the play back to GVSU’s stage for the
festival’s 20th anniversary.

The play itself is full of age-appropriate roles and structured in a way that works well with combining
student and professional actors, plus it is a fun comedic production, she said.

“It’s a really energetic, quick-paced show that has something for everyone,” Mayberry said. “It is one
of Shakespeare’s comedies, but Shakespeare’s really good about blending darker things into his
comedies. There is one part of the plot of this play where it seems like it could turn to tragedy, except
tragedy gets narrowly averted at the last second.”

As part of the Shakespeare Festival, the live production is designed to help people understand and
relate to Shakespeare’s work in ways that are not as easily done through just reading the plays.

“When you have the actors’ vocal expressions and facial expressions and what they’re doing with their
bodies—just being able to visualize it—it makes it much more understandable,” Mayberry said. “When
you go back to reading it you can try to imagine that for yourself, so it’s great to see a live
performance when you’re studying Shakespeare.”

Preparation for the production has been just as much of a learning experience for the cast. Justin
Mackey, who plays love-struck teen Claudio had to decipher lines in order to find meaning in
Shakespeare’s words that would help in the presentation to the audience.

“We did a lot of work with studying the script to find out how Shakespeare wanted us to speak our
lines and he does tell you in his writing, through punctuation, line structure, and verse,” Mackey said.
“It’s also hard because you are forced to sort of stop acting and just focus on the lines themselves,
but it’s totally worth it when you do start performing and you can portray your character in a clear and
strong way which ultimately makes for a better show.”

The plot, on the other hand, should be easier to grasp. Although the scene is set during World War I,
the love/hate relationship between main characters Benedick, played by Sean Kelley, and Beatrice,
played Macey Madias, is one that people can relate to in modern day, Mayberry said.

“I just think that’s such a cool thing that Shakespeare wrote into the play, like there’s so much
potential for physical comedy, and it’s just this great situation,” Mayberry said. “I feel like it’s actually
something that just about anyone could relate to, it seems sort of modern, like you could imagine that
happening in a modern TV show, like it was straight out of a sitcom.”

Apart from the production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” there will be lectures and workshops with
Shakespeare professionals throughout the course of the festival.

“The Shakespeare Festival is something that everyone should attend, whether you’re a theatre
enthusiast, a Shakespeare lover, or just a fan of entertainment,” Mackey said. “There are so many
things to do that fit all interests.”

The play will take place in the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center and tickets are
$14 for adults, $12 for faculty, staff, alumni and seniors, and $6 for students and groups of 10 or
more. For more information, check out http://www.gvsu.edu/shakes/.

arts@lanthorn.com



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