London actors bring Shakespeare to life

London actors perform Shakespeares "Much Ado About Nothing" in the JFSB courtyard. (Jeff Martin)
London actors perform Shakespeares “Much Ado About Nothing” in the JFSB courtyard. (Jeff Martin)

London actors performed Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” last week in the JFSB courtyard at BYU.

Three sets of bleachers surrounded the small stage set up in the courtyard. Stage lights wove under and around the stands. Most of the audience sat front and center.

It was a warm evening. A slight breeze drifted through the courtyard. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

It was a perfect night to bring Shakespeare to life.

BYU’s BRAVO! series works with professional performers across the globe to incorporate world-class acting, dancing and singing into its program. Performers will often remain at BYU for a few days after their show to teach and instruct students, allowing audience members to benefit from the performances and students to benefit from the performers.

Upcoming shows this season include two dancing jugglers from France, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, a Tony Award-nominated actress and a world-renowned English a capella group, according to a recent news article released by the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

Actors and performers from around the world bring unique perspectives and ideas to BYU, adding to and enhancing the diversity of campus by allowing BYU to foster good relationships with other countries and by inspiring students to new levels of creativity.

Jeff Martin, the director of the BRAVO! series, reported that the response to the visiting London actors to BYU was positive. All three performances were sold out, even the performances that moved inside due to the weather.

Students attend a master class taught by visiting actors. The BRAVO! series invites worldwide artistic performers to BYU's campus to perform and teach.
Students attend a master class taught by visiting actors. The BRAVO! series invites worldwide artistic performers to BYU’s campus to perform and teach.

“The BRAVO! series performances are intended to enhance student learning by providing our students with the opportunity to experience professional actors, dancers and musicians in live performances right here on campus,” Martin said. “These professionals also interact with and teach our students about their craft and, often, the business of working professionally.”

Kaelin Cowley, a junior from North Carolina majoring in psychology, attended the Shakespeare performance Thursday evening. She felt that the “Much Ado About Nothing” performance successfully met the goals of the BRAVO! series.

“I think that having London actors here at BYU really does help expose the students and faculty to another culture,” Cowley said.

Cowley believes that some of those cultural differences may be passed on to the theatre arts students at BYU, “which would add some diversity to our theatrical performances.”

BYU exports outside talent as much as it imports. The Young Ambassadors, a group of BYU performers who sing and dance, travel across the world. They have performed for the queen of Thailand, the king and queen of Jordan and the prime minister of India.

Young Ambassadors introduces American culture through contemporary music and dance, just like the BRAVO! national performers introduce world culture to BYU campus.

Cowley said she appreciated how well the actors were imitating British accents, but then she remembered they weren’t imitating accents at all.

“Americans are so focused on our ways of life as ‘the norm’ and other ways of life as ‘foreign’ to the extent that we do not realize people genuinely act and speak differently than we do,” Cowley said.

“Much Ado About Nothing” was performed by five talented individuals who have participated with famous London theatre companies. Each portrayed three or four different characters in the play, constantly altering costumes and personalities, to the delight of the audience.

Humor, love and mischief ran rampant across the small stage as the actors drew laughs, sighs and gasps from those seated in the bleachers. The night concluded with a standing ovation.

The performance added another success to BYU’s BRAVO! series’ belt.


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