Scenic City Shakespeare in Chattanooga will present William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” May 21, 22 and 23, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Inspired by the style and popularity of “Bridgerton” on Netflix, this comedy is produced entirely online on green screen with a cast from six states and the UK. The play is adapted and directed by Emma Collins and features actors brought together from their homes onto virtual sets by Technical Director Ryan Laskowski, text coaching by Helen Knudsen, and costume design by Brenda Schwab.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is presented free online with limited virtual VIP tickets available for purchase at www.sceniccityshakespeare.org.
“We’re incredibly thankful for the support we’ve received from our community and through ArtsBuild's Grassroots Arts and Culture and Recovery Fund” says Scenic City Shakespeare Artistic Director Ryan Laskowski. “With the additional funding we’ve been able to provide quality green screens and costumes, as well as a small stipend for our actors.”
Officially gaining nonprofit status in February 2020, opening with traditional live performances was not an option for the young company due to COVID-19, and they quickly pivoted to Remote Theatre. Since last April, SCS has produced three live-streamed productions and hosted a Halloween themed “Stream-a-thon” fundraiser, all conducted remotely. “Self-Isolated Shakespeare” concludes with “Much Ado About Nothing”, with Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon scheduled for outdoor performances in July.
“Regency Romance is huge right now, and this story really lends itself to the time period,” said Ms. Collins, whose “Much Ado” adaptation includes a “Lady Shakespeare” gossip column and alters traditional casting based on the theme. “We’ve also added an ambitious mama, expanding the non-speaking mother character included in early stage directions but usually cut from the play.”
As for the green screen technique, “It’s such an interesting and exciting challenge,” said Ms. Collins, who serves as education director for the organization. “The actors are completely on their own in their space, they have to know exactly where to focus to be looking at their scene partners, and of course no one can physically touch or exchange props. It requires creative blocking and a lot of trust and imagination from our cast. When everyone is together on these gorgeous virtual sets, it’s magic.”
The play features Kashun Parks, Erik Schiller, Maggie Langhorne, Sam Rude, Nicanor Campos, and Paige Breese with Bryan Basil, Cathleen Brumback, Thomas Breland, Kate McDuffie, Amanda Medlin, Mark Oglesby, Dana Rogers, Art Sanner, Melanie Vitaterna and Brenda Schwab as Lady Shakespeare.