Features and Press Releases

Whiting and Barrymore Award winner James Ijames directs MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Villanova Theatre is proud to present Barrymore Award-winning director James Ijames’ vibrantnew take on William Shakespeare’s timeless romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing, on stage April 10-22. As Shakespeare’s most celebrated and well-loved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing has captured the hearts of audiences all around the world due to the epic scope of its storytelling and the compelling charm of thecharacters’ emotional journeys.
Mischief and merriment take center stage in this enduring tale of affection and forgiveness. Don Pedro’s army may have succeeded in their skirmishes, but in Messina, an idyllic country estate, conflicts of the heart prove much more trying. As young Claudio and Hero fall madly in love, and Benedick and Beatrice reignite their combative courtship, we quickly see how love can bring out the best- and the worst- in all of us. In a whirl of masquerade balls and mistaken identities, Much Ado About Nothing offers intrigue, passion and adventure.
Much Ado About Nothing is grounded in the humanity of its characters, whose flaws and foibles range from expectant lovers to silver-tongued wits, patronizing parents to spurned soldiers. Playfully portrayed are Shakespeare’s sundry characters, all of whom experience the full range of human emotion – from joy to confusion, jealousy, rage and shame. However, Dramaturg Alexandra Curth emphasizes that “the core of Much Ado is love – love shared with friends, family, and romantic partners. The play is a reminder that life and love can be terribly messy, but everyone can find solidarity in these experiences.” She continues, “Shakespeare has tethered me to so many meaningful relationships in my own life – creating bonds with friends, partners and mentors. There is an inherent part of putting on Shakespeare that requires community building.”
James Ijames

Director James Ijames has called upon his vast experience in collaborative theatre-making to cultivate this sense of community within his cast, and the results have been both energizing and uplifting. Says Ijames, “I think we all could use a laugh, some love, some mistaken identity. We are going to laugh. We are going cry tears of joy. But, we are also going to dig deep into what makes us want to connect. In our world of Much Ado, anyone can be anything they want to be.” He continues, “I have cast the play in such a way that gender, race and type illuminate the play but also allow us all to see the play in a new way. I want to dismantle the feeling that Shakespeare is outside of the audience’s experience. I want to allow more people to be able to see themselves within the story.”

Curth agrees, continuing, “what makes the characters of Beatrice and Benedick so exciting to watch is that they push each other in and out of their preconceived notions of love. It is impossible not to laugh during this show. If the romantic whisper-down-the-lane story is somehow not funny enough, the quirky side characters will steal everyone’s hearts.”
Ijames’ vision for Much Ado is to create a playground for imagination, creation, mischief and magic. He says, “When approaching this play, I wanted to go back to what, I think, Shakespeare was trying to do in the theatre. Elizabethan stages were flat and allowed for the action of the play to create the ‘reality’ of a drafty Scottish castle, the battlefield, the port of Venice. I want to make the condition of the theater ripe for the audience to truly suspend their disbelief and engage their imaginations.”
Click on the image to view a 360 rendering of the set design.

The irrepressible, energetic company of Villanova University graduate students will bring to life Shakespeare’s beloved cast of characters amidst a dreamy landscape designed by Parris Bradley. Bradley’s surreal Mediterranean seaside design depicts a bucolic version of Don Pedro’s Messina estate where the grass really is greener. Featuring white stucco walls, soaring balconies and grass covered stage floor, Bradley’s design is complimented by a lighting design by Andrea Rumble-Moore whose animated, colorful palette floats audiences to a place where the sky is above, around and below.

Janus Stefanowicz’s costume design places the players in a contemporary setting, with a light touch of Elizabethan fashion peeking through silhouettes with modern fabrics and cuts reminiscent of Shakespeare’s world. The hints of Elizabethan style are carried through with choreography by Samantha Reading and a sound design by Michael Kiley, whose original soundscape is influenced by period music fused with modern dances.
The dynamic cast includes acting scholars Kara Krichman (Margaret, et al), Brishen Miller (Antonio), Megan Slater (Beatrice) and Mina Kawahara (Balthasar, et al), second-year graduate assistants Leo Bond (Benedict), Alexandra King (Don John) and Sisi Wright (Don Pedro); first-year graduate assistant Mary Lyon (Hero); and theatre graduate students Tara Demmy (Verges, et al), Heather Lemos (Ursula, et al), Nikitas Menotiades (Claudio), Elizabeth Miesenzahl (Dogberry), Shawnee Rowe (Leonato), Lee Stover (Conrad, et al) and Mark Wheeler (The Friar, et al).
 
Much Ado About Nothing runs at Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall from April 10-22, 2018.Speaker’s Night, immediately following the performance on Thursday, April 19,will feature a Q&A session with the Villanova Theatre Department’s Resident Dramaturg Dr. Chelsea Phillips (see full biographical information below). Vasey Hall is located on Villanova’s main campus at the intersection of Lancaster & Ithan Avenues. Performances will be held Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, MA in Theatre alumni, and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12-5 pm) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online atwww.villanovatheatre.org.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
James Ijames, MFA, is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and a Philadelphia-based actor and playwright. He has appeared regionally at The Arden Theatre Company, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Wilma Theater, Baltimore Center Stage and InterAct Theatre Company. James’ plays include WHITE, The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Moon Man Walk, The Threshing Floor and Osiris: Redux. In 2017, he received the Whiting Award for Drama and was granted a Pew Fellow Residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in California. In 2015, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship and the Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize. In 2011, he received an Independence Foundation Fellowship in Performing Arts to train and create a new solo piece with Emmanuelle Delpech and Shavon Norris called FRoNTiN. His Barrymore Awards include the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America, and, most recently, the 2014 Barrymore for Outstanding Direction of a Play for his work on The Brothers Size. James is a member of the InterAct Core Writers Group and a mentor for The Foundry. He received a BA in Drama from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and an MFA in Acting from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. James teaches Acting and Collaborative Theatre Making.
 
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Considered the greatest English-speaking writer in history and known as England’s national poet, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) has had more theatrical works performed than any other playwright. To this day, countless theater festivals around the world honor his work, students memorize his eloquent poems and scholars reinterpret the million words of text he composed. Born into a family of modest means in Elizabethan England, the “Bard of Avon” wrote at least 37 plays, including A Midsummer Night’s DreamMerchant of VeniceMuch Ado About NothingAs You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear.He was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men company of theatrical players, established the legendary Globe theater and helped transform the English language.
Dr. Chelsea Phillips

ABOUT SPEAKER’S NIGHT

Chelsea Phillips, MFA, PhD, is a professional dramaturg and theatre historian. She completed her doctorate in Theatre at The Ohio State University and also holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from Mary Baldwin College/The American Shakespeare Center. As a dramaturg, she has worked with Manhattan Shakespeare Project, the for/word company, Uncut Pages Theatre, and artists from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Folger Shakespeare Theatre, and the American Shakespeare Center, among others. As a scholar, her research focuses on celebrity pregnancy on the eighteenth-century British stage, currently the topic of her book project. Her most recent article, “‘Mrs. Pickle’s Mistake:’ the Origins of an Eighteenth-Century satirical print” appeared in the journalWomen’s History, and she is currently at work on an article about the infamous rival Romeo and Juliet’s of 1750. Her research has been funded by generous grants from the Folger Library, the Lewis Walpole Library, Villanova University, Ohio State University, and Coca-Cola. Dr. Phillips is an associate director for the International Perceptions of Pregnancy Researcher’s Network, and co-convenes the Pregnancy and Motherhood working group for the American Society for Theatre Research. At Villanova, she teaches the core Dramaturgy sequence, and has designed the special topics classes Shakespeare on Stage and New Play Development (developed with playwright in residence Owen McCafferty).
ABOUT VILLANOVA THEATRE
Villanova Theatre is a community of artist-scholars committed to transforming hearts and minds through the visionary production of classical, modern, and contemporary dramatic literature. Our work is fueled by the imaginative striving common to Villanova’s accomplished faculty, versatile staff, and energetic graduate students. Together, we are devoted to creating a vibrant theatre enriched by and overflowing with the ideas explored in our classrooms. In all of our endeavors, we aim to share the dynamic experience of collaborative learning with our audiences in order to engage the intellect and stir the soul.  As a facet of Villanova University, Villanova Theatre serves the campus community as well as thousands of theatre-goers from the Main Line and the Greater Philadelphia area.
 
ABOUT VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY
Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University’s six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.
FACT SHEET FOR
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
WRITTEN BY: William Shakespeare     DIRECTED BY: James Ijames
WHERE: Villanova Theatre, Vasey Hall, Villanova University
               *Free parking available in VU’s Ithan Avenue Garage
and Main Campus M2 Lot
WHENApril 10 – 22, 2018
WEEK ONE
Tue 04/10, 8pm (Preview)
Wed 04/11, 8pm (Opening)
Thu 04/12, 8pm
Fri 04/13, 8pm
Sat 04/14, 8pm
Sun 04/15, 2pm
WEEK TWO
Tue 04/17, 8pm
Wed 04/18, 8pm
Thu 04/19, 8pm (Speaker’s Night)
Fri 04/20, 8pm
Sat 04/21, 8pm
Sun 04/22, 2pm (Closing)
SPECIAL EVENTS:
Speaker’s Night, 04/19: Join us for a lively post-show discussion with the director, dramaturg, cast, and crew of Much Ado with guest speaker Chelsea Phillips, PhD
TICKET PRICES: $21.00 Preview; $23.00 Weekday (Tue/Wed/Thu); $25.00 Weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun)
                           ***Discounts Available for seniors, students, MA in Theatre alumni, and groups.
TICKET INFORMATION: Buy online at villanovatheatre.org; Call (610) 519-7474; Purchase in person at our box office in Vasey Hall (open M-F, 12-5 pm)
CAST
Benedict: Leo Bond
Beatrice: Megan Slater
Hero: Mary Lyon
Claudio: Nik Menotiades
Dogberry: Elizabeth Meisenzahl
Leonato: Shawneen Rowe
Antonio: Brishen Miller
Don Pedro: Sisi Wright
Don John: Alexandra King
Margaret, et al: Kara Krichman
Ursula, et al: Heather Lemos
The Friar, et al: Mark Wheeler
Balthasar, et al: Mina Kawahara
Conrad, et al: Lee Stover
Verges, et al: Tara Demmy
CREATIVE TEAM
Director: James Ijames
Scenic Designer: Parris Bradley
Costume Designer: Janus Stefanowicz
Lighting Designer: Andrea-Rumble Moore
Sound Designer: Michael Kiley
Choreography: Samantha Reading
Dramaturg: Alexandra Curth
 Mischief and merriment abound in Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes. Don Pedro’s army may have succeeded in their skirmishes, but in Messina, an idyllic country estate, conflicts of the heart prove much more trying. As young Claudio and Hero fall madly in love, and Benedick and Beatrice reignite their combative courtship, we quickly see how love can bring out the best-and the worst – in all of us. In a whirl of masquerade balls, mistaken identities, Much Ado About Nothing offers intrigue, passion and adventure.

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