Much ado about Shakespeare;
ACU hosts annual festival honoring immortal bard
Sunday, July 1, 2001
By Brien Murphy
Reporter-News Staff Writer
For the Abilene Shakespeare Festival, it's all about
People who attend the productions of "Richard III" and
"Much Ado About Nothing" at Abilene Christian University's
Beauchamp Amphitheatre are invited to spread out blankets or
bring lawn chairs, come dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and
bring a picnic supper. The later-than-usual start time -
8:45 p.m. - also roughly coincides with the setting of the
sun, keeping audience members out of the heat.
"That's the way this type of theater was performed" when
it debuted, said Josh Blann (Richard in "Richard III").
The free annual festival brings "rolling repertory"
theater to Abilene as about two dozen actors perform roles
in two of William Shakespeare's plays. The plays are
performed on alternate nights.
Keeping roles in two productions straight is a challenge,
said Bill Rankin, whose more prominent role is Don Pedro in
"You have to have an understanding of two different
characters. It can be a bit schizophrenic," he said.
It also offers the usual challenge of taking language
that is out of style - Shakespeare's plays were written 400
years ago - and making it make sense to modern
Rankin, an ACU English professor, said like any play,
Shakespearean plays are meant to be seen and heard, not
"When you read it as a text, it's difficult, it's
language that we don't use anymore. But when people see it,
it comes to life," he said.
"There are things that really connect. There's a very
basic humanity. People elevate Shakespeare so much, but this
was the soap opera of its day, this was the popular
entertainment of its day."
"Richard III" is, basically, a political thriller.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is brother of England's King
Edward, who assumed the throne after a war. Richard isn't
satisfied with just being a duke, however. He wants the
crown, and is willing to kill to get it. Various political
underlings underestimate Richard, which helps him
consolidate power. The question that remains is, can anyone
"Much Ado" is a romantic comedy about two witty would-be
lovers who spend more time engaging in a battle of wits than
in admitting they do, in fact, love each other. Their
friends devise a plan to get them together, but things don't
quite go according to plan - it wouldn't be a romantic
comedy without problems - and the fun is in seeing how they
overcome those problems to join hands.
Adam Hester is directing "Richard III." Clay Freeman is
directing "Much Ado." Cast members don't want to give too
much away, but they use words like "futuristic" and
"ultra-modern" in describing Freeman's vision for "Much Ado"
(hint: it won't necessarily be set in the early 1600s).
"We pull from many periods to make it feel loose," said
Sandy Blue (Beatrice in "Much Ado").
The Abilene Shakespeare Festival will be Thursday through
Saturday, and July 12-14 outdoors at Beauchamp Amphitheatre
at ACU, under the Tower of Light. Showtime is 8:45 each
"Much Ado About Nothing" will be performed Thursday,
Saturday and July 13. "Richard III" will be performed Friday
and July 12 and 14. Admission is free, and seating is on a
first-come, first-served basis.
Contact leisure writer Brien Murphy at
676-6760 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Last update: June 28, 2001
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