BYU’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ performance reflects Globe Theatre design, Elizabethan era

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Performers are constantly trying to better their skills through hard work and dedication. Hours of practice, training and memorization eventually turn into live productions aimed at impressing audiences. Actors, dancers and singers work incredibly hard to make their characters and personalities come to life.

It is safe to say that without the work of those behind the curtain, some productions wouldn’t be the same. This is especially true for shows that are centuries old, such as the Department of Theatre and Media Arts’ production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

BYU students are striving to make their latest show as authentically Shakespearean as possible without requiring a ticket to fly to the London Globe Theatre.

Paige Francis helps actors get ready for the performances. She has coordinated with the director and costume designers to establish a definitive look for the characters (Preston Crawley).

Paige Francis, the production’s hair and make-up designer, has been meeting with the director, stage manager and other designers since January 2019. She said the show is going to be fun, light, romantic and engaging for its viewers.

“The main goal of the production team is to make the director’s vision (come) to life,” Francis said. “We are trying to create an atmosphere for the audience that will take them back in time. Shakespeare isn’t often done in the Elizabethan period anymore.”

Francis designed the hair and makeup looks, while coordinating with the costume designer to create the characters’ looks. She said creating shows in a specific time period has unique challenges.

“For hair and makeup specifically, we today have certain ideas about what beauty is, and what looks right and wrong, ” Francis said. “Trying to stay within a period with a design, but slightly changing it to be acceptable for a modern audience has been difficult but a huge opportunity as a student designer.”

Costume designer Elizabeth Banks faced similar challenges in recreating Elizabethan clothes. Banks said people dress far more casually now than they did back then. For example, women often wore things like petticoats, bonnets and corsets.

Actress Mikah Vaclaw wears a wig similar to those worn during the Elizabethan period. Vaclaw plays Leonata, a female adaptation of the original male character Leonato, in BYU’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” (Preston Crawley)

“They were more structured and formal, but in our production, we have a more casual look for most of the show,” Banks said.

Banks has been involved in sketching out what the costumes should look like, and picking out fabric to make the clothing. She and the other designers worked on costumes, each with their own set of accessories, for 18 different cast members.

“We’ve built a few things from scratch: a dress and a couple of doublets,” Banks said. “It’s really cool to see something that you’ve drawn and then eventually see it in real life. There are very talented people who make the costumes.”

Denali Linton, the associate set designer, strove to recreate the Globe Theatre’s design for “Much Ado About Nothing.” This process took a lot of research, and Linton even had an opportunity to go on a study abroad to London, where she got additional pictures of the Globe Theatre for a better reference.

“Because they have already recreated it in London, most of the challenge has been fitting our design in the stage,” Linton said.

Since the Globe Theatre is its own building, recreating it inside a smaller theater within the HFAC proved to be a tight fit. But despite the challenges Linton said she has enjoyed working on “Much Ado About Nothing” because of its larger scale.

The BYU “Much Ado About Nothing” stage is built out into the audience. Denali Linton helped with the development and research to create a smaller version of the Globe Theatre. (Preston Crawley)

“We’ve taken out seats and built out into the audience,” Linton said. “We have a really dedicated production team. Everybody has been working together; it’s been a fun thing to be a part of.”

“Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed in the Pardoe Theatre in the HFAC from Nov. 16 to Dec. 7. Click here to learn more.

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