Much ado about Shakespeare at GVSU


William Shakespeare. Photo via

Grand Valley State University opens its 20th consecutive Shakespeare Festival tonight with its first performance of a post-WWI “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The Shakespeare Festival, which runs through Nov. 2, features a main-stage production that combines students and theater professionals, lectures by Shakespearean scholars and other events around the Bard.

Post WWI-“Much Ado About Nothing”

This year’s main-stage production is the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Performances will take place at GVSU’s Louis Armstrong Theatre, Performing Arts Center, on the Allendale Campus.

Tonight’s opening will include a free public reception in the Pere Marquette room, following the performance.

GVSU’s “Much Ado About Nothing” production is set just as World War I is ending, and soldiers returning home from the reality of war are 
caught up in the “merry war” of wits between the sexes.

The skirmishes in this battle may be more playful, but they may also be more dangerous than anyone expects.

The production features guest Actors Equity Association actor Christopher Seiler in the role of “Dogberry” and local guest actor Gary Mitchell is playing “Leonato.”

Tickets range from $6 for students, $12 for alumni, faculty, staff and seniors and $14 for general admission.

The money raised from the Shakespeare Festival goes to supporting the next festival as well as to scholarships for GVSU theater students.

The festival attracts between 6,000-7,000 attendees.

GVSU theater alumni

“We are celebrating our 20th season, and we wanted to include some of our alums in our production,” explained James Bell, festival director since 2005, about why this particular play was chosen.

“We have a guest director who is one of our alums, Katherine Mayberry, and she was in our last production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” Bell said. “She played ‘Hero,’ and she was interested in doing that production again. We did a tragedy last year, a pretty dark one (“Richard the III”), so we thought doing a lighter comedy would be fun.”

In addition to Mayberry, several alumni will work behind the scenes: musical director Scott Lange; choreographer Christian Vigrass; lighting designer Chris Teller and property mistress Julie Kehr.

The festival’s guest scholar-in-residence is Jeff Watkins, who is the artistic director and board president for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the New American Shakespeare Tavern.

Spreading Shakespeare

One mission of the Shakespeare Festival is to help introduce students to Shakespeare.

The festival offers several performances geared towards high school students by Bard to Go, which is GVSU's traveling Shakespeare troupe.

The group will perform an all-new production, “Puzzle the Will.”

The show will highlight scenes from several plays, including “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night” and others to give students an introduction to Shakespeare’s work.

All the scenes deal with Shakespeare’s love for riddles, puns and wordplay — and they are set in a contemporary “video game” of Shakespearean proportions.

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