O, joy: Mayor commends Shakespeare Festival
Vivid characters and witty lines of “The Bard” came to life at the 42nd Houston Shakespeare Festival from July 29 to Aug. 7, a UH-produced event that, prior to its first day, received recognition from the mayor.
“With this production, we wanted to emphasize that there could be families, there could be little kids in the audience, there could be couples on dates, or even single people who just love Shakespeare,” said Camron Alexander, a theater senior who played Sexton and Friar Francis in “Much Ado About Nothing.” “I really think this show is one of the most accessible Shakespeare productions, and everyone should come see this show.”
Then-UH School of Theatre & Dance director, Sidney Berger, started the Houston Shakespeare Festival in 1975. Since it was introduced, thousands of avid Shakespeare readers and theater enthusiasts have traveled to Houston to enjoy the professionally acted plays.
“It’s pretty funny. With the romance, the men and women, it is a never-ending battle between the sexes,” said Connie Vasquez, as she was discussing the next part of the play with her niece, Kaitlin.
Unlike the original play, director Jack Young gave his iteration of “Much Ado About Nothing” an interesting setting: in 1898 Texas, just after the U.S. defeated Cuba in the Spanish-American War.
“The Texas theme was fun, just because it was so different. I like the interlude show they did, which felt period appropriate and went well with the play,” said Helen Hoover, an audience member for “Much Ado About Nothing” who studied Shakespeare in college. “I would come again next year. It’s free, it’s good and it’s a great way to bond with the Houston community.”
A short rehearsal timeline enabled the cast to generate authentic reactions onstage. According to both actors and the audience, emotions ran high and unplanned nuances enhanced each scene.
“The rehearsal process was only about three weeks, but we got our scripts a week or two beforehand,” Alexander said. “In the last run we did, Susie, who plays Hero, got really upset and she wasn’t facing me, which she hadn’t done the night before. In little ways like that, the acting stays fresh.”
The intermission of the play left the audience in suspense, as they sat with their families and friends, discussing what would happen next.
“I really enjoyed the acting and it met my expectations. It was lighthearted and comical. I have read the play before so I understand (the language),” said Kaitlin Villarreal, a high school student visiting Houston from the Rio Grande Valley.