Much ado about something ending

So. It’s over.

The production I’ve been a part of for the last three months has come to an end.

Much Ado About Nothing closed on Sunday.

Back in “the day,” when I taught high school English and Shakespeare at Oxnard High School, I had the luck of working with some very talented students. Many went on to continue doing drama, which is just this much [holds thumb and forefinger very close to one another] less rewarding or pride-inducing than watching students go into teaching.

One of those former students, Jolyn had ended up majoring in theatre. And she had been producing at the local theater for a while now. She was one of the first of my students to contact me when I joined Facebook, and occasionally she would let me know if there was a show that she thought I might want to be a part of.

And I never took her up on it. Part of it was having been so long off the stage (I haven’t been on an acting stage for–if memory serves–twenty-five years. Teaching, sure. Presentations, absolutely. In-services and workshops, yeah. But acting in character? Decades.), I wasn’t sure I could do it. I also wasn’t sure if I could do it because I often would bail from prospective auditions out of — well — fear, I guess. (the anxiety / panic attacks I’ve been suffering with increasing and alarming frequency [save for the ones that are directly related to grief] seem to have one thing in common: the necessity of being in an unfamiliar surrounding with people I don’t know. Wow, I can’t believe I’m writing this down for publication…anyway)

But last fall, when Much Ado was announced, she sent me another invite, and I made the mistake of mentioning it to my wife Lisa, and she made me commit to going. I only wanted to see if I could help out from a dramaturgical perspective, but I was convinced to audition.

Working with Vivien, our director, has been a wonderful experience. I tried to help her achieve her objectives. We cut lines that modern audiences just wouldn’t “get.” We moved a section of Act Two, Scene One to the beginning of the play, to allow for a sequence that allowed the audience to be drawn into the Regency period before being saddled with Shakespeare. She wanted a tonal shift after the interval, so we cut the Dogberry/watch introduction-Borachio capture scene into two parts, and put the first half before the Don John “revelation” to Pedro and Claudio, which then ended the first act with a dumb-show of what Claudio sees; the second act could then begin with the capture (without the bizarrely out-of-place comedy).

There were some decisions I didn’t agree with, and we talked those out; she made the final call and I think for the most part her instincts were better than my (over?) thinking on the matters. But I think the show was better for those discussions (or at least I like to fool myself in thinking so).

The cast and crew were an absolute joy to work with. The four romantic leads were exceptional. Our Don John wonderfully intense. The Dogberry and Verges hilarious. But for me, as Antonio, it was Mark as my “brother” Leonato who made my job possible. I was incredibly rusty to start, and he was able to coax a better performance out of me. By the end of the run, our characters truly were acting as brothers on stage. It was exhilarating.

This last weekend of performances have been some of the best of our run, with crowds that really pushed us. For me, it’s been extra special, as my older son Kyle flew out to surprise me and Lisa for our birthdays (she’s another March baby, as is our younger son Jack), and to catch the show.

It’s been wonderful. And now it’s over.

Some of the actors want to put together regular play readings, and I’ll definitely participate in those. Jolyn’s directing later this year, and I’ll be involved off-stage (doing either ops or assisting the stage manager). Will I act again? Sure, if the right show comes along (and no, it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but the Bard would probably make an audition a given now). But I’m a cliché…what I really want to do is direct. And I have a couple of ideas. So we shall see.

I’m thankful for having been able to be a part of this show.

And I’ll end rambling. Tomorrow, back to Shakespeare. I promise.

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