There is so "Much Ado about Nothing" at Minot State University this weekend that director Aili Smith had to call in extra cast members from the faculty and community.
"We're using the whole theater department for this show," she said. "We even have three faculty members -- Kevin (Neuharth), Conrad (Davidson) and Eric Furuseth -- and Ryan Haider from the Mouse River Players."
"She called me because she needed another watchman, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be on stage with Kevin and Conrad, even if I didn't have any lines," Haider said.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Daniel Johnson as Benedick is engaged in a “merry war” with Katie Langemo as Beatrice in the Minot State University production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - From left: Ashley Nilsen as George Seacoal tries to ignore the antics of fellow Watch members Grant Johnson (bench), Arthur Ward and Ryan Haider as Reynaldo, Hugh Oatcake and Horatio, respectively, in the Minot State University production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Kevin Neuharth, left, and Conrad Davidson face off as Dogberry and Verges, respectively, in the Minot State University production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Daniel Johnson as Benedick, left, pours his heart out to Brett Olson as Claudio in the Minot State University production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Smith has abridged the classic Shakespearean comedy herself, endeavoring to keep all the characters, plots and well-known lines from the play while removing what modern audiences would be hard pressed to understand.
Benedick (Daniel Johnson) and Beatrice (Katie Langemo) are engaged in a "merry war." They both talk a mile a minute and proclaim their scorn for love, marriage, and each other.
In contrast, Claudio (Brett Olson) and Hero (Brittany Armstrong) are sweet young people who are rendered practically speechless by their love for one another.
Performances of "Much Ado about Nothing" are today through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Aleshire Theater.
"Since it's in the public domain, we've also decided to take advantage of not having to pay royalties to allow us to offer this as a 'pay what you Will,'" director Aili Smith said with a grin.
Of course, this being a Shakespearean comedy, through all the twists and confusions it all comes right in the end. The themes Smith is highlighting are deception, manipulation, misunderstanding and love.
"It's short enough not to need an intermission," she said.
Smith said she has set the play in the not-too-distant future during a non-specified war and in a small Midwestern village. This has made for many consultations with costumer Matthew Dempsey, who blended Elizabethan elements with the contemporary.
In the round
Also, the Aleshire Theater has been transformed into a theater in the round, with chairs placed on the stage.
"This is just another option for the audience," Smith said. "We're not going to draw them into the performance or anything. This is just an opportunity for a more intimate atmosphere, and it will seem that the audience is overhearing events just as the characters are."