After a two-year hiatus, Stan State’s Theatre Under the Stars is returning May 4, 5, 6 and 7 with “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare. Preparations for the play were underway in March 2020 when Stanislaus State moved to remote operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The set was halfway built; the costumes were halfway done,” said Carin Heidelbach, director and assistant professor of theatre. “We shut it all down and we put it in storage and hoped we could use it again.”
The time has come for the show to go on, but not without some changes. Many actors have returned, although not all in the same roles. Some student cast members have graduated and are returning as alumni. The cast also includes professionals and guest artists.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a comedy that takes place in Messina, Italy. The story centers around an estate encountering the return of soldiers from war. Two couples face obstacles in love in the midst of drama and intrigue. Heidelbach described the play as accessible to a wide audience with its universal themes of family, relationships, gender politics and the meaning of love.
The content is also timely for an audience that has lived through a pandemic, where people have to put the pieces of their lives back together after major disruption.
“Even when things feel pretty tenuous in the world right now, it helps to remember that there are things that will be okay,” Heidelbach said.
While theatre productions continued during the pandemic, for the majority of the past two years they were missing a key ingredient — a live audience.
“It’s relieving to be able to come and interact with people and to be able to produce a show for a live audience,” said theatre major Anna Rose, who is playing the role of Margaret.
Theatre majors are required to take part in six productions as a requirement for their degree. A valuable part of their experience is the hands-on production process and rubbing shoulders with more seasoned actors.
“This is my first Shakespeare production, and I was a bit nervous about it since I wasn’t sure if I would do well,” said theatre major Katelyn Monteiro, who is playing Conrade, a character reenvisioned as female. “Yet, I am getting into the groove and am very excited to perform with all of the skills I have learned from my peers and director!”
The cast and crew are anxious to bring this timeless comedy to life and delight audiences in Stan State’s beautiful outdoor Amphitheater. According to Heidelbach, artists have an even more important role to play in the midst of a troubling time. Stories inspire people to persevere and artists want to tell them.
“We need people to keep us going and keep us thinking and celebrating those great parts of life and helping us struggle through the difficult parts of life.”