Bienvenidos a Miami to Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’


Joanne Haner/The Daily Northwestern

Performing the role of Leonato, Communication sophomore Jordan Muhammad blesses the marraige of Benedick and Beatrice.

Maria Ximena Aragon, Senior Staffer

Feeling the Miami heat in Evanston, Lovers & Madmen is transforming Shanley Pavilion into a neon celebration of life this weekend for its rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The play puts a twist on a Shakespeare classic, moving the setting of the play from Sicily to Miami. The production premieres Friday at 7, with an additional show at 10 p.m., and runs through Saturday, with shows at 2 and 7 p.m.

Communication junior Gabriela Furtado Coutinho, the play’s director, chose post-pandemic South Florida, a place truly close to home for her, to be the backdrop of this story as a bridge between the stress that comes with change and the celebration despite it all.

“I chose this setting because I feel that it is an explosion of joy, and that’s really, really needed right now,” Furtado Coutinho said. “It’s also a city in which people are celebrated for the fullness of themselves, and that lends itself really well to be healing to an audience at Northwestern.”

Many wouldn’t associate Shakespearean language with nightclubs and roller skates. But the set adorned with vibrant lights and flowers creates an intimate experience for the audience, cast and crew.

The space onstage allows audience members to watch the performance and invites them to be part of the show, as the cast embodies the true nature of a party — which is Furtado Coutinho’s main goal for the play.

“There’s something about the poetry of Shakespeare that flips people’s insides out and amplifies beautiful things about human nature,” Furtado Coutinho said. “Sad truths about human nature give a really rich textual landscape to explore and have fun. I always thought that ‘Much Ado’ sounded very Miami to me, very Latin, very immigrant, very not old white men; so it was something I wanted to share.”

From petitioning the show back in May to starting rehearsals in September, Communication junior Mark Berry, the show’s producer, explained that many members of the cast and crew have had little to no experience performing in Shanley — offering a “wild experience” for everyone.

There is no shortage of excitement returning to the stage, but COVID-19 protocols and procedures are still in place.

“Starting rehearsals in a virtual space and then moving rehearsals to in-person was a new challenge I’ve never had before,” Berry said. “We’re also currently navigating the world of masked versus unmasked, because the school has approved the cast to be unmasked during performances, so we’re navigating that world of, ‘When do we start asking the actors to take their masks off?’”

Pushing through weekly testing and canceled rehearsals, students have had the opportunity to be creative with the return to theatre, from changing lines to allowing actors to explore their craft. One of these explorations was creating a gender-bent character.

While the character Don Pedro is usually portrayed as a masculine prince, L&M’s “Much Ado” chose to reimagine him as someone who blurs the lines of gender.

“I am all for gender-bending Shakespeare, I think it’s about time,” actor and Communication senior Emily Zhang said. “(When Don Pedro talks), it comes out a little bit more ironically, calling attention to how that’s not how we should speak, instead of just people talking like that because they’re guys.”

From the 1600s to 2021, “Much Ado About Nothing” continues to inspire actors from all walks of life, and as NU students find their new normal on campus, the return to stage is more exciting than ever.

“It’s nice to have those little banter moments with people backstage or in rehearsal that you can’t get on Zoom,” Zhang said. “Those little moments of interaction really build community within a cast, so it’s been really, really nice to get that back.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @menitaaragon

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