Girls just want to have fun in the Lamplight Theatre Company production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’May 12, 2021 11:28AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Actors Mark Reading and Leah Allred spar in the Lamplight Theatre Company production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at Draper Historic Theatre. (Photo courtesy Eldon Randall/Draper Historic Theatre)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
The 1980s are often remembered for iconic pop music, big hair, power suits and day-glo colors. It was also a decade in which women achieved new levels of representation in the workplace, politics and pop culture. Sandra Day O’Connor, for example, became the first woman justice on the Supreme Court, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space and female superstars like Whitney Houston and Madonna tore up the charts.
The Lamplight Theatre Company’s adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing" at Draper Historic Theatre moves William Shakespeare's comedy to the 1980s and puts the female characters front and center.
"You can see the female characters in more dominant roles. This production gives Beatrice the main story line,” noted Mackenzie Tolk Houmand, who composed original music for the production. She feels that the Lamplight Theatre Company adaptation is fitting. “Shakespeare often portrayed the idea of women pushing against assigned gender roles,” she said.
Love and deception are key themes in "Much Ado About Nothing.” When a young man named Claudio is tricked into thinking that his fiancée, Hero, cheated on him, he dumps her at the altar. Her friend Beatrice jumps to her defense and a scheme is concocted to restore Hero’s honor and get the couple back together. At the same time, friends conspire to trick the headstrong Beatrice and the devil-may-care Benedick into falling in love.
The Lamplight Theatre Company production takes a playful look at gender stereotypes. "Beatrice and Benedick have switched gender roles," explained director Eldon Randall. Lines that were written for Benedick are spoken instead by Beatrice and vice versa. Similarly, Hero and Claudio have swapped lines. "Hero can be a little whiny," said Randall. "Now it's Claudio."
In addition, some of the other characters in the play originally conceived of as male are now played by women.
Part of the reason for this gender role swapping is to accommodate the fact that more female actors often turn up at auditions. The other is simply to switch things up and put a fresh spin on a classic play. The goal is to make Shakespeare more accessible to audiences looking for light entertainment who might be a little intimidated by an Elizabethan script.
“We want people to not be afraid of Shakespeare,” said Randall of the adapted script. “It’s a lighthearted comedy that runs about 90 minutes. The plot is easy to follow.”
“This adaptation would be a really great way for someone who is not into Shakespeare to get into it,” echoed Houmand.
The singer/songwriter, who grew up in Draper and performed in many shows at Draper Historic Theatre as a child was thrilled to get involved with “Much Ado About Nothing.”
In this production, the music helps to tell the story and also conveys the time period.
Houmand wrote about half a dozen songs in the style of classic 80’s pop. "I tried to make the music have that feel to it," she said. Many of the songs incorporate synthesizers, "but some of the songs sound more modern," she explained.
Perhaps nothing captures the 1980s as much as the distinctive fashions of the decade. Costume designer Kylee Larsen isn’t old enough to remember those years, but explained, “I have a fantastic mom who educated me!” For inspiration, Larsen watched all the Brat Pack movies.
“I have tried to make sure that the costumes do not represent a Halloweeny version of 80’s clothing, but real clothes that people would actually wear,” Larsen said. Some of the characters wear preppy styles like “mom jeans” and blazers, Polo shirts and sweaters. The villains have a goth look and are decked out in boots and fishnet stockings.
Larsen described the characters’ hairstyles as, “The bigger the better! Lots of curls and lots of Aqua Net.” The makeup is bold and bright as befits the era.
Lamplight Theatre Company invites audiences to take a trip back to the ’80s to enjoy Shakespeare’s classic comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing,” May 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on May 8 and 15. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East. The ticket hotline is 801-572-4144 during performance weeks. Tickets may also be purchased via the theatre website at www.drapertheatre.org.