What: “Much Ado About Nothing”
Who: Union Mine High School’s drama students
Where: Theater at the Mine, 6530 Koki Lane, El Dorado
When: Nov. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for high school students and $7 for those with a UMHS student body card. High school students may attend for $5 on Thursdays during the play’s run
Information: 530-621-4003, ext. 4605
Union Mine High School’s drama students have taken on the ambitious task of producing one of Shakespeare’s most complex comedies, shaded with dramatic overtones, in the upcoming presentation of “Much Ado About Nothing,” set for Nov. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at the Theater at the Mine.
Chances are the bard himself would be delighted at the more modern setting for the romping dramatic comedy, which Union Mine drama teacher Pete Miller has transported into a revolutionary Cuba, in 1935.
That means plenty of salsa dancing, the director smiled, something unheard of in Shakespeare’s time but a development that probably would have met with his approval. After all, the intricacies involved in salsa dancing, along with its hints of saucy male-female intrigue, are the hallmark of Shakespearean twists and turns in plot and character depictions.
Helping bring Director Miller’s vision to life is a cast of students who during a recent photo shoot to promote the play were effervescent in their brief portrayals of the more photogenic scenes of the play, which runs just over two hours.
“Much Ado” is a quite physical play, with scenes that include would-be bride Hero being shoved to the ground (stage floor) by her suitor Claudio as a result of one of many misunderstandings, this one regarding her virtue.
Another scene involves villain Don Jon being apprehended, brought down and tossed over as he lies prone. But the kids are tough, apparently.
“Is the bride’s back OK today?” Miller inquired during last Monday’s run-through.
“I’m fine,” said high school veteran actress Stephanie Lemon, adjusting the hem on her stunning lace bridal gown.
“My character (Hero) is very kind, and wants everything to be all right,” said Stephanie, 17, a senior who has taken drama classes and performed onstage throughout her high school years. “At the same time, she knows there is evil in the world — still, she tries to remain trusting.”
Stephanie said she always enjoys working with Miller, who has taught high school drama for 32 years and community and educational drama five years prior.
“Mr. Miller is always kind and patient, but he’s also very particular,” said Stephanie, just as the director called a halt to onstage proceedings because a set fountain was not producing water. “But that only makes for a better show.”
Stephanie added that she sees “Much Ado About Nothing” as an entertaining mix of comedy and drama that allows the actors to “reach the highest points of all the different emotions” involved.
“We are hoping that a romantic comedy will appeal to a wide range of audience members,” said Miller. “And doing Shakespeare, I feel it gives the kids a real challenge, a chance to do some great acting.
“We try to perform Shakespeare every other year or so, because of those challenges,” he said.
The director paused as another actress, Caffrey Lynch who plays Beatrice, stood on a swing held up by flower-garland ropes suspended from the ceiling of Union Mine’s theater stage. Caffrey stood steady in her 1930s-era high-heeled pumps on the skinny wooden swing but it was enough to make her fellow students pause to watch.
The entire set is successful in evoking images of Cuba following a violent insurrection, with the heroes returning to their hometown to be greeted by the townsfolk, including love interests, friends and villains.
As misunderstandings, skullduggery and outright wrongdoing cast a pall on what should be joyous pairings of young men and women, the play unfolds with hilarity and lessons of honor, shame and righteousness.
Spicing that soup of humanity is a tasty dose of comedic capers by the Cuban town’s mostly inept police force.
What promises to be one of the most lively scenes is that of the town party just after the return of the soldiers, with the women wearing gorgeous 1930s-era dresses and shoes, and the guys in uniforms as they take up the salsa dancing.
Choreographed by former UMHS student Afton Parker, the students have put in hours learning the invigorating dance steps.
The story centers around the love-stricken Claudio (Sean Verbitsky) who is enamored of Hero (Stephanie Lemon). The evil Don John (Garrett Larson) and his cohorts Borachio (Jess Wray) and Conrad (Frances Swickard) do their utmost to ruin any chances of the young couple’s plans to wed, which results in a famously feuding couple, Benedick (Joel Heichman) and Beatrice (Caffrey Lynch) also eventually coming to their ultimately satisfactory fate.
The action takes place on the estate of a wealthy landowner, Leonato (Daniel Wheelright) as the weary soldiers, led by Don Pedro (Michael Stevenson), are brought there to celebrate the end of the battles.
Other characters include Margaret (Laura Chastain), Ursula (Gina Sapyta), Balthasar (Devlen Whisler), Antonia (Bianca Zuniga), Dogberry (Connor Purdum), Verges (Josh Yeager), Sexton (Kol Chaiken), Friar (Chandler Cassner), The Watch (Shawn Ulrey, Vicent Wise, Caylynn Barker), Soldiers and Messengers (Spencer Stevenson and Garrett Larson), Townswomen (Clair Gregory, Skyler Heinsma, Rachel Judd, Bethany Turnbull and Sierra Nelson).
Assisting Director Miller is Assistant Director Caiti Blockus.
Advance tickets for Union Mine High School’s fall production of “Much Ado About Nothing” are $10 for adults, $8 for high school students and $7 for those with a UMHS student body card. High school students may attend for $5 on Thursdays during the play’s run. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. each evening.
Tickets may be pre-ordered by calling 530-621-4003, ext. 4605, or may be bought at the door.
The high school is located at 6530 Koki Lane in El Dorado and the theater is located just across from the school office.