Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shakespeare in Spain ; Director Moves 'Much Ado about Nothing' to Post-Spanish Civil War Setting

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shakespeare in Spain ; Director Moves 'Much Ado about Nothing' to Post-Spanish Civil War Setting

Article excerpt

Shannon Reilly, Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy's artistic director, doesn't like to mess around with Shakespeare.

"I tend not to like taking Shakespeare out of context," said Reilly, who since 2002 has directed TCT's seven productions of plays by William Shakespeare, all of them set in the time and places suggested in the 400-year-old scripts.

However, when TCT stages Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," a nine-show run of which opens Friday in Sheffel Theatre at TCT, 3028 S.W. 8th, the beloved comedy will transpire not in the 16th century in the Sicilian port city of Messina. TCT's "Much Ado About Nothing" will unfold in Spain just after its 1936-39 civil war that brought Generalissimo Francisco Franco to power.

Reilly said the idea of a revisionist setting of the play dates back to when he studied the play in graduate school. Shakespeare suggests "Much Ado About Nothing" takes place after a civil war, but doesn't say which one.

That is why some productions of "Much Ado About Nothing" have gone as far to set the play in America's antebellum South. Reilly said he wasn't inclined to take that route, but the atmosphere of the Spanish Civil War was a time when "rumors and innuendo were quite dangerous."

"That's what Shakespeare's message was with this whole play," Reilly said.

When he told actors he was thinking of a 20th century of the play, their response was enthusiastic. In fact, the audition hall was packed, Reilly said.

And although the costumes might be more modern than in previous TCT productions of Shakespeare's plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" sticks to the Bard's "beautiful language and wonderful story," which is a romantic comedy.

"All in all, it's a love story, and love stories translate to any era," Reilly said.

There are actually two love stories in the play. …

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