Preview to a new production in Agassiz Theater.
The Hyperion Shakespeare Company of Harvard is putting on the first of its two shows of semester in the Agassiz Theater this Friday. The play, Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, is directed by Allegra Caldera ’17, produced by Garrett Maron ’16 and Connie Yan ’16, and stage-managed by Mia Vitale ’17. The entire production showcases not only a variety of hardworking individuals, but also a new take on the play. I had the honor of visiting during one the many rehearsals and speaking with those involved.
Caldera decided to direct the play within a 1940s setting. When asked why, she stated, “I think the 1940s setting works really well with the text because in the script the men are all coming back from war, so for our modern audience the visual of the 1940s is a really great hook into the idea of a postwar time.” Caldera pointed out that the play includes a touch of misogyny – especially with the character (played by Madison Deming ’18) Hero’s story line as a shamed bride-to-be who has to be hidden away. The 1940s setting also works well with that aspect “to give a little bit of detachment from the modern day so we have a little bit more suspension of belief”, according to Caldera. The director’s brainchild is not without its present day cultural relativism. She “wanted to recognize that the 1940s is not that far away” and that those gendered stereotypes are still in play today. Even so, “in terms of the arch of the show, it’s a comedy. But I think that it goes to places that are dark, and I really wanted to make sure we explored those because every moment of comedy is heightened by having a connection to emotions that are deeper and darker,” Caldera says. The complimentary emotions will no doubt have the audience riveted. Shakespeare’s ability to universalize human truths and struggles is brought closer to the audience through Caldera’s innovation. She reveals, “My whole thematic idea for the show is what it means to open yourself up to love versus being hidden from love – which is why we have the shadow screens because I’m playing with the idea of hiding.”
The cast also happens to be very freshmen heavy. The role of Beatrice is played by freshman Kier Zimmerman who is very excited to be in her first show at Harvard, but also loves this play in particular. Her character is the “ultimate strong woman – she is sassy and fierce and strong” and the play “has all of the best parts of a rom com put into one.” But putting on this great of a show requires a lot of work. When asked about preparations, Zimmerman answered, “rehearsals have been super fun; they’re always very high-energy. Since it is so early in the semester to be doing a show, it has been long rehearsals and very intense right from the beginning, but I feel like I have made myself a little family right here and I love these people.”
Playing opposite of Zimmerman is senior Eli Kresta as Benedick. Theater at Harvard is not new to him – “This is my fourth show here at Harvard actually. I’ve been doing theater since I was nine, so that’s 13 years now. This is such a fun role – I get to be snarky, and its good to play something that I’m not.” Kresta agrees that this production holds something new for him as well. “This is such a fun cast to work with. I’ve only worked with one person in this cast before. I love seeing all the new freshmen – they’re so talented!”
Stage manager and Vice President of Hyperion Mia Vitale agrees that having so many freshmen in a production is unusual but just one of the exciting outcomes of Much Ado’s casting. Vitale stated, “This is honestly one of the greatest casts that I’ve ever worked with. All of the actors are so responsible and on top of things and always willing to help out. It’s a very strongly freshmen cast which is sometimes unusual, but it is great to get them involved with Hyperion right off the bat.” As one of the many individuals who have worked hard to get this show ready for opening night, Vitale is just as anxious for the audience to laugh along with the characters as they make their way through this great story.
Opening night of Much Ado About Nothing will take place Friday, October 9th at 8PM with more showings following through the weekend and all of next week. Next Thursday’s show will be free with an HUID.
Caroline Cronin ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be visiting the theatre Thursday night!