Instead of performing “Comedy of Errors” in the typical Romanesque setting, BYU’s theater department revamped Shakespeare’s masterpiece by bringing movement-based theater, music and the 1960s to the play.
The opening scene of Shakespeare’s infamous play “Comedy of Errors” is infamously boring, said Andrea Gunoe, director/producer of the show. Shakespeare tells a lengthy background story, giving the audience insight and understanding to the characters’ backgrounds.
Gunoe, a graduate student from Boise, Idaho, turned the opening scene into a colorful, musical dance number that is anything but boring.
“We took the whole thing and added a giant dance number,” she said. “It explains everything and this boring scene is now one of my favorite scenes. It has so much going on.”
Gunoe was inspired by esteemed choreographer Bob Fosee’s work from the ’60s. As “Comedy of Errors” is an over-the-top, crazy farce, it proved to be a perfect fit for movement-based theater.
“We decided that because the language is quirky and there are fun characters, instead of doing it more realistically, we decided to use dance and Bob Fosse’s choreography,” Gunoe said. “His choreography is from the ’60s, and it’s about isolation and moving one part at a time.”
Movement-based theater is the opposite of typical theater — as most characters feel emotions and then show them, movement is about seeing the emotion second.
“It makes Shakespeare’s language come alive in a different way,” Gunoe said. “It’s a new approach — not something that you see all the time.”
Movement-based theater can also help dissolve the language barrier of Shakespearean plays. Shakespeare not only uses language from a different time period, he oftentimes speaks in imagery and symbols. Audiences who struggle with comprehending the text of “Comedy of Errors” will be able to understand the story through the movement of the characters.
“People who don’t understand Shakespeare will see it happening in dance,” Gunoe said. “And people who don’t understand movement can see it in words. We’re combining the two so both of them help each other.”
Not only has Gunoe brought movement-based theater to “Comedy of Errors,” she has set the play in the 1960s. This setting has not only made the show easier for audiences to relate to, but it has brought an element of fun that is often lost in traditional Shakespearean renditions.
Christian Cragun, a grad student from Rochester, Minn., plays the character Antipholus, a high-society ladies man, separated from his twin during a shipwreck at infancy.
Cragun has used the 1960s setting to identify with his character and help audiences connect to Antipholus.
“The way that Shakespeare productions of the past hundred years have gone, people like to put them in a new era,” he said. “I think it’s designed to help the audience connect with the show more as a whole. It’s great to look at — typical Austin Powers. Really cool velvet tuxes and shaggy hair and bell bottoms.”
Janell Turley, 21, a theatre arts major from Vancouver, Wash., is the hair and makeup designer for “Comedy of Errors.” In sync with the funky, out-of-the-box nature of the show, Turley is making wigs for the cast out of anything but hair.
“A lot of the color and the visually interesting elements in this show isn’t coming from costumes, it’s coming from the hair and wig design,” she said. “I plan on using interesting, different material for making a lot of the wigs in the show. They have a look that will bring a lot of overall visual concept together.”
“Comedy of Errors” will run Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Margetts Theater of the Harris Fine Arts Center. On Friday, March 30, “Comedy of Errors” will be performed at 6 and 8:30 p.m.