William Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing in the middle of the sixteenth century.
But in a testament to The Bard’s enduring relatability, the new local theater company The Rude Mechanicals is setting its version of the classic comedy —opening June 11 at the Reach center in Richland — in the Hanford area at the end of World War II.
And it works perfectly.
Don Pedro, Benedick and Claudio are returning from fighting the Axis powers.
And the plucky, Beatrice, long engaged in a “merry war” of wits with Benedick? Perhaps she was a pioneering female scientist at Hanford.
“We got to create our own back story. We decided she would have been educated. I definitely think she would have been a scientist or something like that, working as much as she could for a female of that time,” said Megan Vaughn Boggs, who plays Beatrice.
The production includes Shakespeare’s original language, trimmed a bit to a running time of about two hours. But the costumes, hair, makeup and music are straight out of the 1940s.
Ellicia Elliott, the director and producer, picked that time period as a way to tie the production to the Reach center and the area’s history, she said.
And the hope is the modern setting will make it feel more accessible to people who fear Shakespeare is beyond their understanding.
In reality, Elliott said, The Bard wrote plays for all.
Local audiences will find Much Ado About Nothing to be fun and easy to grasp, said Michael Thomas, who plays Benedick. “We grab the audience and take them on a journey,” he said. “I think this is a great introduction to Shakespeare and how much life you can get out of his scripts, how much life is in each character.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. June 11-14 on the outdoor stage at the Reach, 1943 Columbia Park Trail.
Beer, wine, two signature cocktails and cheese plates will be available from Castle Event Catering. Snacks and bottled water also will be for sale.
Along with Thomas and Boggs, the cast includes Christopher Wilson as Claudio and Cyndi Kimmel as Hero, Beatrice’s cousin and Claudio’s love. Geoff Elliott plays Don Pedro.
Sarah Shaff is assistant director and stage manager.
Ellicia Elliott said to expect laughs, but also more. The witty battle-of-the-sexes comedy has some touching, tender moments, she said.
“It’s just a really good, strong story that I think a lot of people can relate to,” she said.
Elliott is artistic director of The Rude Mechanicals, which debuted earlier this year with a performance during the state community theater festival.
The company performs works by and inspired by Shakespeare.
Elliott said it’s exciting to be on the verge of the first main stage production. “‘Exciting’ isn’t even a good enough word for it,” she said. “It’s such an exhilarating feeling knowing that 1 1/2, two years ago there was a group of us meeting in people’s homes talking about maybe doing something, and now it’s actually happening.”
“We’re excited to share this with (the community),” Elliott said.
Varying ticket levels are available. General admission is $18 and the student, senior and military price is $15. Guests should bring a blanket or lawn chair.
Royal Gallery tickets are available for $50. Those guests will be seated in a reserved, shaded area and receive complimentary bottled water and snacks, a show poster autographed by the cast and other perks.
A limited number of “groundling” tickets also are available for $5. Those ticketholders will sit right up near or on the stage.
A $10 backstage pass also is available as an add-on. It includes a pre-show discussion of the play and concept, first choice in the general seating area before the house opens and the chance to explore the Reach museum. The Reach galleries open to Backstage Pass holders at 5:30 p.m. and the pre-show discussion is at 6 p.m.
Play-goers are encouraged to buy tickets in advance at www.rmtheatre.org. Tickets also will be available at the door.
An IndieGoGo campaign also is under way to support The Rude Mechanicals. To learn more or contribute, go to www.tinyurl.com/rudemechanicals.