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SANTA CRUZ SHAKESPEARE 201522 DIRECTORS NOTES Laura gordon There is a kind of merry war betwixt my niece and Signor Benedick... Beatrice and Benedick are my favorite Shakespearean couple. They are absolute equals in wit and will passion and stubbornness vulnerability and virtue. They were made for each other but neither will admit it. I love what this play has to say about revealing oneself and the cost of doing so...the price of shedding artifice and allowing oneself to be honest and vulnerable. Many masks are worn in this play both literal and figurative. Theyre worn as a means to flirt and innocently deceive but at times theyre worn with more malicious intent. In the case of Beatrice and Benedick their masks are a kind of veneer behind which they hide their true feelings in order to protect themselves. At its core Much Ado About Nothing is about love and all its awkward funny disappointing painful glorious and triumphant complexities. The cast of this production consists of seven women and seven men a rather unusual breakdown. Artistic Director Mike Ryan has made it a priority to try to achieve gender parity at Santa Cruz Shakespeare an initiative which I applaud. So weve embraced this notion by casting some of our women in traditionally male roles. You will meet Leonata and Antonia Heros mother and aunt rather than her father and uncle. We have thus set up a matriarchal household into which the soldiers enter as they return from war. I was looking for a time period when women were seeking equality with men but hadnt quite achieved it. I settled on 1945 at the end of World War II a period that saw many women having to give up their wartime jobs to returning GIs creating an interesting gender battle that I think will serve this production. DRAMATURGS NOTES Michael Warren Shakespeare probably wrote Much Ado About Nothing in 1598. It is one of a series of comedies Merry Wives As You Like It in which he is exploring malefemale relations and experimenting with the extensive use of prose. Unlike many Shakespeare plays Much Ado is set in just one location the provincial community of Messina which is honored by the visit of the noble military commander Don Pedro and his colleagues who are happy to enjoy once more the pleasures of civil life and familiar female company. These days the plays title appears flippant and dismissive but it conceals two serious meanings that were available to its original audience. Nothing was pronounced as noting and could therefore be understood as observation nothing was also a common term for womens sexual parts. Much of the initial comedy of the play concerns errors of noting of observation. The youthful and nave Claudio misinterprets Don Pedros behavior as he negotiates Claudios marriage to Hero. In a pair of splendid comic scenes the older Beatrice and Benedick overhear conversations that trick them into acknowledging their attraction to each other. But later Claudio and Don Pedro will be perilously deceived by what they witness and they challenge Heros honor confident in the male values of the military nobility but fearful of female betrayal. When the forthright and courageous Beatrice forces Benedick the habitual scorner of women and marriage to choose where his loyalties lie the play challenges the nature of masculine honor and of soldiers loyalty. Through the course of the play the relationship of these two intelligent skeptical and articulate people exposes the shallowness of romantic love and questions conventional gender roles. Together they set a new pattern for couples that will be evident in many plays of the next century.