Theatre UAB presents “Much Ado About Nothing,” from Nov. 10-13, 17-20

After a year of streamed performances due to the pandemic, the Department of Theatre is celebrating its return to live theater with comedy and laughs from one of Shakespeare’s most delightful comedies.

Per longstanding UAB protocol, members of the media must first receive approval from and/or be escorted by UAB University Relations to be on UAB property, including inside UAB buildings and outdoor campus property (e.g., Campus Green, parking decks).

theatre much ado poster lowresTheatre UAB at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will present one of William Shakespeare’s most delightful and most often produced comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing,” from Nov. 10-13 and 17-20. 

After a year of online, recorded and streamed performances due to the pandemic, the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre decided, when they returned to live theater this season, “we wanted to laugh, have a good time and truly celebrate the return to stage with lots and lots of comedy,” said Director Jack Cannon

So, when searching for a classic comedy, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” presented itself as the ideal choice. The play is filled with youthful characters falling in love, a plot full of hysterical twists and turns, and a conclusion where all is set right in the world and love wins the day. “Much Ado” is full of beautiful language and side-splitting laughs, all centered around the classic battle between the sexes. Through a hilarious blend of eavesdropping, deception and mistaken identity, a love-struck couple play Cupid for two of their relationship-challenged friends. 

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. nightly Nov. 10-13 and Nov. 17-19, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, in the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center’s Odess Theatre. Admission is $15; students $6; UAB employees and senior citizens $10. 

Cannon says, as the director, he wanted to feature the diversity of the UAB Department of Theatre. R’kaisa Mitchell of Homewood, Alabama is the student assistant director.

“We needed a production that was flexible in casting genders and ethnicities,” Cannon said. “I wanted to approach the classic play with a modern sensibility. Many of the male characters have been reenvisioned as female characters or cast with an actress portraying a male character.”

The traditional casting of “Much Ado” has only four female characters. Theatre UAB’s version features 11 actresses, most notably the villain, Don John, who is now Doña Jules, and the patriarch of the play, Leonato, who is now the matriarch, Leonata. This means the cast of “Much Ado” at UAB will have more non-male characters than Shakespeare wrote for any of his plays. 

The production design, set in an elegant garden, is the world of a fairy tale or a fantastical city out of a movie. Costumes are elaborate and elegant. The time period is “not quite now,” and the setting is “not quite here,” Cannon said, making for a timeless comedy geared toward a 2021 society. 

Another feature of the design has the production staged in the round with the audience sitting on all four sides of the set. This creates an intimate relationship between the actors and the audience, allowing the language of Shakespeare to be clearly heard and the action of the play to be at “arms’ distance” from the audience, Cannon said.

The cast is Bri Scott of Center Point as Signora Leonata, Trevor McMullen of Birmingham as Antonio, Abigail Coats of Florence, Alabama as Beatrice, Raiya Goodman of Houston as Hero, Travis Settoon of Ponchatoula, Louisiana as Don Pedro and understudy for the role of Benedick, Ian Black of Sylva, North Carolina as Benedick, Devin Franklin of Hueytown, Alabama, as Claudio, Jazzy Pedroza-Watson as Doña Jules, Anna Frey of Oneonta, Alabama as Conrade, Soren Klinger of Montgomery, Alabama as Borachio and understudy for the role of Claudio, Cappy Elvir of New Orleans, Louisiana as Margaret, Emma Chippendale of Orlando, Florida as Ursula, Isabel Behr of Nashville, Tennessee as Dogberry, Tess Lenzen of Madison, Wisconsin as Verges, Joseph Condon of St. Petersburg, Florida as First Watch, Michael Woods of New Orleans as Second Watch and understudy for the role of Antonio, Madeline Erwin of Houston as Friar Francis, and Cat Merritt of Huntsville, Alabama as Sexton and understudy for the role of Friar Frances. Understudies also include Madi Carr of Mobile, Alabama for the roles of Hero, Doña Jules, Conrade and Verges; Kristen Hall of Alpharetta, Georgia for the roles of Leonata, Beatrice and Dogberry; McKenna Shaw of Pittsburgh, Kansas for the roles of Margaret, Ursula and Sexton; Jackson Landreau of Columbus, Georgia for the roles of Don Pedro and Borachio; and Michael Mercado of Florence, Alabama as Watches. 

Stage manager is Emma Mansour of Cullman, Alabama. Assistant stage managers are Juliette Sosa Valle of Granger, Iowa and Thomas McFerran of Austin, Texas. Scenic design by Ed Zuckerman. Amanda Waller of Johns Creek, Georgia is lighting designer, David Page is lighting and sound tech, and J. Marc Quattlebaum is props coordinator. Kimberly Schnormeier is costume designer, with costumes by Amy Page and Sharon Morgan.