The Seton Hall Theatre Program performed Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from Oct. 24-27.
Auditions for the play started the first week of September, although the play had already been chosen the previous semester. The first audition was a casting call followed by an unconventional script reading for the callbacks.
“The audition experience was different because everyone was together in the callbacks allowing the director to see the actor’s chemistry with the cast as well as their idea of their character,” said Channing Fitzgerald, a graduate student pursuing an M.F.A. who played Beatrice, the lead, in the show.
With 10 years of directing experience behind her, this was Stephanie Silberstein’s first time directing a play for the theatre program. With training as an actor and experience as a director, Silberstein wanted to give the students professional-level experience through the audition and rehearsal process.
“My main goal as a director was to simply tell Shakespeare’s story,” Silberstein said. “His text can feel like another language at times and I wanted to leave the audience with a clear vision of his text.”
The main plot of the show follows the love story of Claudio and Hero who fall instantly in love at the arrival of the prince’s company, but their romance is deterred by a plot that breaks them up and supposedly leaves Hero dead. It also follows the love story of Hero’s cousin, Beatrice, who is tricked into falling in love with bachelor Benedict, who eventually defends the honor of Hero.
The actors described a rehearsal environment where the director gave them enough space that allowed them to explore the characters on their own.
“I teach little kids theatre and it was nice being a part of a production of actors who still are growing and learning their craft,” Channing said. “Understanding my character was also challenging as she is very complex as she crosses a fine line of being clever or mean as well a character that is fun despite her being overbearing.”
Others explained that with a diverse collection of actors with different levels of theatre experience, each actor was able to grow and learn from this experience.
“I learned about priorities and time management,” said Melinda Primorac, a sophomore theatre, political science and philosophy triple major who played the watchmen verges. “I was also challenged with understanding and playing a role that was originally meant for a man.”
Audience members and actors explained how the first performance went. Savannah Moore, a freshman modern language major, said the first night was amazing as the energizing performance was performed in front of a packed theatre.
Noah Mandel, a freshman accounting major, discussed his favorite scene in which Beatrice gets angry at Benedict.
“I loved the actor playing Beatrice because she really threw herself into her character and brought a lot of energy to it,” Mandel said.
Vinitha Raju, a senior IT and economics major, also praised the performance of the actor playing Beatrice and said she was funny and stayed in character. Raju added that she loved the scene where Beatrice and Benedict were sharing their love confessions.
Andrew Byrd can be reached at email@example.com.