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Daniel Martin, Melinda Simpkins, back, Drew Simpson, Shelley Piatt and Jamaal Patterson will perform in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” by Calhoun Community College Theatre.
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Daniel Martin, Melinda Simpkins, back, Drew Simpson, Shelley Piatt and Jamaal Patterson will perform in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” by Calhoun Community College Theatre.

‘Much Ado’ thrown a curve ball
Baseball an unexpected twist to Shakespeare at Calhoun

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

It’s nearly springtime in Alabama, so you can expect young minds to turn to thoughts of ball.

The theater instructors at Calhoun Community College anticipated that and decided to turn their three-week March run of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” into a tale of a winning baseball team with all the angst of players, friends and parents.

They knew a large part of their “Shakespeare for Schools” audience — hundreds of high-school English students for whom they plan special daytime performances — would relate better that way. The play opens to the public tonight, with a dozen performances planned through March 18.

Director and theater instructor Bill Provin said while Calhoun students did a “Much Ado” production about 10 years ago, this one is different.

“We set it in the 1920s, and instead of having soldiers returning from war, we have baseball players returning from winning a championship. I thought baseball would fit better,” he said, noting that the bonding of the men is similar, whether it’s a team or a battalion.

Theater Department head Bubba Godsey designed a set that looks like a front porch in Anywhere, U.S.A. It incorporates early 1900s Victorian styling with gingerbread trim reminiscent of summertime and small-town America.

“The play opens with a silent film that lays out the main characters and the time period, which is when women got the vote,” Provin said.

“Much Ado About Nothing” features Messina Mayor Leonato and his wife, Antonia, their daughter Hero, cousin Beatrice and their boyfriends, plus the police chief and deputy, the town magistrate and a priest. Then there are Captain Peters, the manager of the Messina Dragons, and his brother, a team member, plus a star pitcher and other players round out the 30-member cast.

In Shakespearean comedies like this one, disorder takes the form of social conflict, Provin said, so you may see a family at odds, lovers and spouses quarreling, and individuals alienated from the group. He explained that Shakespeare’s object in all of his plays “is the restoration of order, and the progress of the plot is always to correct those who deviate from the rules of society.”

Melinda Simpkins of Athens relates to her character, Beatrice, “because she is a multi-dimensional character with all the emotions wrapped up in one package. She does everything all out, not halfway, so I have to put everything into this character, and it challenges me more than other roles I’ve had.”

Daniel Martin of Trinity, as Benedick, agrees.

“That’s why I love doing Shakespeare, because it is more challenging, and ‘Much Ado’ is my favorite Shakespeare play,” he said. “Benedick is kind of a jerk, and an arrogant showoff who likes to hear himself talk.”

Cheri Crawford of Somerville who plays Antonia, said “What makes it real for me is that in real life I have a 3-month-old daughter, and Antonia has a daughter in the play, so I tap into real-life experiences in some scenes.

If you go

What: Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” by Calhoun Community College Theatre

Where: Black Box Theatre, Fine Arts Building, Calhoun’s Decatur campus

When: Three long weekend runs March 1-4, March 8-11 and March 15-18, with shows at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays

Tickets: $8 for students and seniors and $12 for others at the door; call 306-2693 to reserve tickets

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