It was my first time seeing a production by The New Renaissance Theatre on Saturday evening and after a very rainy Pittsburgh week it was refreshing to be able to attend a sunny outdoor performance. The theater was presenting their first showing of Much Adoe About Nothing, which is part of the company’s Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project (USP). The project presents plays using an Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique. I didn’t have the slightest clue about what this meant until the show’s prompter, Adam Rutledge, took to the grassy stage.
Rutledge explained that back when Shakespeare’s company gave their performances, there were multiple distractions (i.e. gambling, drinking, prostitution) and in order to keep the audience entertained, the performances had to be fast-paced and diverse. Because of this, the company presented different plays every day of the week leaving the actors little to no time to rehearse. Additionally, there were no copyright laws back then and nothing to keep an actor from taking copies of Shakespeare’s scripts and selling them as their own. So, instead of scripts, actors were given scrolls that contained cues such as the last few words of their lines, entrances, exits, and essential stage directions.
The USP actors are taught the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique with clues written by Shakespeare himself. As far as how the actors were going to know what to do on stage without rehearsals and access to the full script, the cue scroll was going to give them all they needed. The spelling, punctuation, language, and meter all contain cues for the actors and the characters’ word choice provides the actors with clues as to how the character should be portrayed. With scrolls in hand and Rutledge standing by with the full script in order to clarify any confusion, I was excited to see what the evening had in store. For information about the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique, check out their webiste here.
The first performance of the evening was a rendition of Adele’s Rumor Has It by one of the play’s actresses, Cassie Wood. The song wouldn’t have made much sense out of context, but given the plot of the show we were about to see, the melody tied in perfectly. The story intertwines two love stories, which are based on foundations of gossip and hearsay. The first of these romances unfolding between Hero (Cassie Wood) and Claudio (Steve Gottschalk).
Wood had a charming innocence about her, which meshed well with her character. There was a scene where she was playfully scolded by Rutledge for missing her cue to enter the scene, which had most of the audience chuckling with the understanding, “that’s so Hero.” Gottschalk perfectly embodied the commanding force of Claudio while also appearing boyish around his colleagues. Hero’s father, Leonato, was hilariously portrayed by Parag S. Gohel. I recently saw Gohel in Throughline Theatre Company’s production of The Ruling Class and continue to be impressed by his acting skills. His hilarious facial expressions compliment the absurdity of his characters perfectly and his comfortable demeanor on stage makes for a great performance.
The second romantic entanglement of the show takes place between Benedicke (Adam Huff) and Beatrice (Tonya Lynn). These two actors really stole the show with their performances. Huff added to the hilarity of Benedicke’s character by scrambling to remember his lines on more than a few occasions while Lynn was fearless in involving the crowd with her dramatization. Their hilarious interpretations and fumbles not only entertained the audience, but also entrenched a humanity within these characters that was both pleasant and natural.
The wardrobe for this performance was, for lack of a better word, amazing. Everything from the character’s outrageous hats to their ankle-length skirts screamed Shakespearean. Even the black yoga pants that made a few appearances were hidden well under the colorful garments and lavish corsets. The characters all seemed more than comfortable in these costumes, which added to the lack of scenery in the play. Although there were little to no props, the actors’ performances were more than enough to make the grassy stage seem like a Sicilian island.
It was apparent that artistic director, Elizabeth Ruelas, and managing director, Andy Kirtland, put a great deal of time and energy into this project. I don’t think they could’ve picked a more courageous and dedicated lot of actors to portray this technique. I was thoroughly impressed by the performers’ willingness to both embody these dynamic characters while also laughing at themselves along the way. Much Adoe About Nothing is playing throughout July at several venues around the area and this is a free event. For more information on this show or to learn more about USP be sure to visit their website.
Performance Date: Saturday, July 11, 2015