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According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, “Much Ado About Nothing written between 1598 and 1599 is Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedy.” Be that as it may, one cannot help but notice the serious tone that these productions carry, the play itself nearly touching down on drama, as is best exemplified in the 2012 movie adaptation of the playwright which in and of itself is considered to be and categorized as a comedy. That being said, these are just a few of the many variables one must consider in the grad scale operation of designing a modern production of this specific Shakespearian work. For instance, as one of the most customarily manufactured performance, a troubling challenge is raised in attempting to avoid recycling old ideas, for the purpose of course to create a sense of originality; that is, creating for a new lens for audiences to view Shakespeare through. One exemplification of this as demonstrated by the Royal Shakespeare Company, is how they have continually focused on the locale of their productions in order to capture the social structure of Renaissance England, in locations such as Cuba and India, in a common theme that is starting to become somewhat repetitious. Therefore, in order to rise up to this challenge, and create for a sense of raw, fresh ingenuity, I propose a return to the very core, the very essence of this specific Shakespearian piece as a comedy, as a viable solution to this problem. In so doing, my production would take the central theme of love, marriage, gender roles, and the issues surrounding them such as cuckoldry, and would highly saturated them with an emphasis place on comical elements such as the notion of lampooning, as well as the utilization of reducto ad adsurdum. To illustrate this effect, I will leverage a combination of the conclusion of Act I, Scene I in light of the opening moments of Act II, Scene I, as it’s own separate scene in order to demonstrate how I would achieve this.
In considering the staging for this project, I must be completely honest in admitting that I found my inspiration for my idea from the scene from the 1978 teen romance Grease, that, through it’s song entitled Summer Love, juxtaposed the love that the two main characters had for one another as the camera oscillated back and forth from one to the other, as they described themselves to theirs group of friends, and it is this same effect that I hope to depict in the scene that I will lay forth and suggest. In likewise fashion, I would take the conclusion of Act I, Scene I, and amalgamate it with the beginning of Act II, Scene; two scenes that could arguably be taken out of sequence, as to better illustrate the similar feelings that Beatrice and Benedick have pertaining to love. More specifically, I refer to the conversation between Benedick, Claudio, and Don Pedro, found at lines 1.1 132-235, and that of the interaction between Beatrice and her father, located in the passage 2.1 6-68. Also, as far as staging is concerned, I would additionally choose to have these two groups locate themselves on opposite sides of the stage in the case of a theatrical performance, with Benedick and his company due left, and Beatrice and her outfit of characters off to the right. If in the case that it were televised, this separation would be indicated by a split in the screen in an according manner. Moreover, to further bolster the mood of the setting, I would decide on backdrops, or a type of scenery that was congruent with Elizabethan traditions. While the overall presentation of a theatrical piece is essential in an interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing, so too is a consideration of the individuals to whom would act in place of the differing characters.
Arguably, a comedy is as good as the comedians that it employs. In the case of the six characters required for this hypothetical scenario, I would cast Will Ferrell in place of Benedick, John C. Riley as Beatrice, Zack Galifianakis for the role of Beatrice’s father, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim as Claudio and Don Pedro, as well as John Heder to play Hero; the reasons for said casting being many. First and foremost, there is the fact that this selection of comedians carry with them a noticeable chemistry, having performed in many works together, which is a crucial element to consider in any collaborative work; team work is after all key. The choice for Will Ferrell and John C. Ripley as the couple of main focus derived from the fact that the two share a unique bond as it is, as is demonstrated in the countless number of movies that they have co-starred in together, while the choice of John Heder stimming from the fact that he has played sensitive, almost feminine like roles, such as the case in Blades of Glory, and also in part due to the fact that I feel that he embodies the ostensibly boyish characteristics that would have been originally found in the selection for the early Shakespearian works. Asides from that, another essential Shakespearian aspect that I would be attempting to capture is that of the crossdressing all male staff as was characteristic of Shakespeare’s original performances. With this notion being kept into consideration, I would overly-exaggerate this aspect as much as I possibly could for an additional effect of comic appeal. For example, while dressing the cast in the sort of attire typical of sixteenth to seventeenth-century England, I would make sure to dress Ripley and Heder in the most elaborate, frilly, oversized, and intricately bedazzled gowns with tight fitted corsets that would look otherwise ridiculous on their masculine ;body hair of course protruding out from the sides in the case of John Ripley. Furthermore, I would also see to it that the female characters, namely Ripley and Heder, wore an excessive amount of makeup in brilliant colored whites, reds, blues, and the likes. On a final note, this decision would be made on the premises that these comedians are accustomed to the over-the-top slapstick like humor that I would be hoping to convey in my adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Similarly, and of equal significance, these six individuals would be hand chosen for the important matter of the delivery of the lines they would be assigned in question.
In regard to the delivery of the aforementioned passages specified above, I would ultimately be aiming to attain a two-faced, two-front, seemingly dualistic outcome. Referring back to the inspirational scene taken from Grease, I would break these two conversations up into various segments, with some of the sparse quips being omitted. This decomposition of the dialog would attempt to create for the product that two different discussions or exchanges are taking place on different levels. Beginning with, “I noted her not, but I looked on her,” in the case of Benedick, and “I saw him not,” in the case of Antonia,” the interaction on the stage would follow in a way that the main characters Benedick and Beatrice would make their various comments, which would preceded by the response by those surrounding them, after which it would switch back and forth between what Beatrice and Benedick, so that they are not only conversing with those around them, but giving the appearance that they are speaking to each other directly. Most noticeably, statements such as, “That a woman conceived me, I thank her. That she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks…I will live a bachelor (1.1 195-201),” “If I do, hang me in a bottle like a car and shoot me, and he that hits me..(210-212), and, “The savage bull may,, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bulls hors and set them in my forehead..(1.1 215-219), as commented by Benedick, would in turn be countered by Beatrice’s similar appraises, such as, “Just, if he send me no husband, for the which blessing I am….(2.1 23-26),” What should I do with him – dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman?… (2.1. 28-34), and that of, “No but to the gate, and there will the devil meet me like an old cuckold with horns on his head and say, get you to heaven. Here’s no place for you maids. Si deliver up my apes and away to Saint Peter.. (2.1 36-41). Also, in so far as deliverance of speech is concerned, they would of course be speaking in highly charged, passionate, over-the-top, and exaggerated terms. Additionally, they would utilize a great deal of non-verbal communication and gesticulations. As for the case of Ripley playing Beatrice, he would be attempting, rather unsuccessfully, to imitate a type of feminine high pitched tone.
At the heart of the matter, Much Ado About Nothing is strictly a comedy, with its title alone setting the mood for the rest of the performance with its crude joke in reference to female genitalia and sexuality. Thus, in an grand scale attempt to reproduce this play with the aim of capturing a sense of originality, an emphasis is placed on the typical comical aspects such as lampooning and reducto ad absurdum in relationship to the common overarching theme of love, marriage, gender roles, and similar concepts such as cuckoldry. These comic ideals are further highlighted and reiterated through such considerations in interpreting a play, such as the staging, casting, and deliverance of the speeches found within the production, to create for a production not to unlike a South Park or National Lampoon like version of Shakespeare’s, Much Ado About Nothing.
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