Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing welcomes the roaring ’20s

One year after the world commemorated the onset of World War I with candlelight vigils, SF State’s theatre department will put on their second main stage production of the year, a ’20s-themed rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing,” at the Little Theatre Thursday, Nov. 19.

SF State theatre students Maya Smoot (left), Aaron Moses (middle) and Steven McCloud (right) rehearse on stage for their upcoming show Much Ado About Nothing in the Creaive Arts building Tuesday Nov. 10. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

SF State theatre students Maya Smoot (left), Aaron Moses (middle) and Steven McCloud (right) rehearse on stage for their upcoming show Much Ado About Nothing in the Creaive Arts building Tuesday Nov. 10. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

SF State’s version of the show is set in 1919, one year after the end of the first world war, and incorporates elements of the roaring ’20s jazz era into a romantic comedy about finding and holding onto love in the face of extraordinary obstacles.

“San Francisco lost many of its citizens in the war, and I thought it would be interesting to see if there are any correspondences in the play to that sense of loss, but also a sense of relief that the carnage was over,” said Bruce Avery, director of the show and professor of English and literature with an emphasis in Shakespeare.

Avery said setting the production in a different decade makes it unique and worth seeing a new version of the show.

“This was also a time of women’s suffrage and feminist activism, and I see Beatrice, one of the characters in the show, as very much that kind of powerful woman,” Avery said. “The 1920s was the dawn of the jazz age, so we’ve filled this production with great music.”

Simone Arasimowicz, an SF State senior theatre major with an emphasis in costume design and the costume designer for “Much Ado About Nothing,” said she drew inspiration from the 1920s.

“Although the setting is in October 1919, not quite the 1920s, there are still many elements of the 1920s in the designs,” Arasimowicz said. “The 1910s were a very interesting time for fashion — the styles in women’s fashion started to move away from constricting styles of earlier decades and gradually moving into the flapper styles that we associate with the 1920s today.”

Arasimowicz said she was inspired by issues of Vogue from the early 1900s and photo stills from silent films. She said she was also influenced by Halloween aesthetics of the era.

Aaron Moses (left) and Regina Leon (right) embrace each other on stage during the rehearsal of Much Ado About Nothing in the Creative Arts building an upcoming show at SF State Monday Nov. 16. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

Aaron Moses (left) and Regina Leon (right) embrace each other on stage during the rehearsal of Much Ado About Nothing in the Creative Arts building an upcoming show at SF State Monday Nov. 16. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

“Halloween back then was a lot more whimsical and spookier,” Arasimowicz said. “There is a masquerade scene in the show, set in the month of October, so I used vintage Halloween as my main inspiration for this particular scene.”

Aaron Moses, a senior theatre major, portrays the main character, Leonato. Leonato is an alcoholic at the dawn of prohibition who is dealing with the stress of raising his family after the loss of his wife from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

“I intend to perform in a very broad, large, heightened and humanized way,” Moses said. “When people come and see the show, I want them to think that there’s a real person up there, and I can understand everything he’s saying.”

Moses said he made his character more human and relatable to the audience.

“I’ve made him an alcoholic and a conservative, with his attitudes against homosexuality, women’s rights and anything that isn’t a conventional, traditional way of doing things,” Moses said.

Regina Leon is a sophomore theatre major who plays Hero, the quiet daughter of Leonato, and the lover of Claudio, a young soldier who intends to marry Hero. Leon said the era of the show yielded inspiration for the actors performing in the play.

“‘Much Ado’ is set right after the enormity of World War I, when soldiers witnessed grotesque and traumatizing acts during the war, and the characters in the show are slightly broken and jaded,” Leon said.

Performances for “Much Ado About Nothing” begin with a preview on Thursday, Nov. 19 and regular performances continue through Dec. 4 at the Little Theatre in the Creative Arts Building. Tickets cost $10 to $15 with a student ID.

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