"The fact that it was an adaptations of that, and a western, and a comedy, it just fit perfectly.”
Students at Little River High School are reinterpreting the English Bard into the western frontier.
The cast will perform “Much Ado Out West,” a fresh take on William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” on April 28 and 29.
Director Ardynn Brooks explained that this script, written by Wade Bradford, brings together the best of the best.
“In the last production we did, ‘That’s Not How I Remember It,’ I thought it was absolutely hilarious at how the kids kept slipping into a southern twang. They wanted to turn every character into a cowboy. So when it came time to choose a show, I specifically wanted a western. They’re such hams so slapstick was the way to go and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is my favorite Shakespearean comedy. The fact that it was an adaptations of that, and a western, and a comedy, it just fit perfectly.”
The story follows Shakespeare’s classic tale, with a few alterations. A group of cowboys return from the war to discover a group of independent women have taken their jobs. An age-old battle of the sexes ensues with a barn dance, showdown and love triangle, with a few Shakespearian twists along the way.
“I know these kids well enough that I know they’re not thrilled about English literature, but as soon as I got them into the play, they started doing research on their own and talked to their English teacher,” Brooks said. “She had them go through ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and they came back with questions and blew my socks off. My teacher’s heart just swelled.”
Though the actors aren’t reciting lines of iambic pentameter, they’re still facing some tongue twisters.
“It’s very hometown hokey. The language has that old-fashioned southern phrasing. It’s not Shakespeare, but the phraseology is post-Civil War so it’s still not modern English,” Brooks said. “Their quips and witticisms are from that time. We’ve had some hilarious conversations where they kids weren’t sure what they were saying, so it was fun to explore that with them.”
The barn dance could have been a point of contention, but Brooks quickly found that the cast was more enthusiastic about the western world than she thought.
“The kids originally kicked and screamed about having to dance, but they stuck with me and I taught them this square dance. They took to it like nobody’s business,” Brooks explained. “Later, we were at prom and I look over and a couple of them were doing the square dance out there on the prom dance floor.”
Though the actors span a wide age group, all involved are dedicated to the project.
“There are a few new boys who didn’t help with set last year, so this year they came in with a fire and were ready to build sets. They’ve built a barn and a house and one of them built some hobby horses. It’s been really cool to tell them what I’d like and they can take that idea and run with it. They’ve found a plow, and old windows, it’s been neat watching it all come together,” Brooks said. “They are some of the most kind, team-oriented kids I’ve ever worked with. I have the whole age gap and you can’t tell. It’s been neat to see them pull together. I don’t have to second guess anything. When you can trust them, it makes for a better experience for everybody.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. April 28 and 29 at the Little River High School auditorium. Tickets are available at the door for $5 for adults and $2 for students. Ages 12 and younger can attend for free.