After a hiatus last summer, outdoor Shakespeare by Animal Fire Theatre is back with the romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening June 30 in the Water Garden on the east side of the Capitol Campus. The free production will take audiences back to Hollywood during the Roaring ’20s. “I’m looking for that 1920s, silent-film energy where everything is a little bit sped up,” said director Jeremy Thompson of Lakewood. “It’s perfect summer fare.”
To wit, he’s cut about 30 percent of the original text and is promising an evening of fast-paced, flowing fun that aims to help audience members forget their troubles. “We thought, ‘What do we need right now more than a sense of lightness — a distraction from what’s going on in our world?’” he said. “People can sit back and relax and just enjoy the silliness.” (To better relax, audience members might want to bring blankets, chairs and picnics.)
As fans of the Bard know, Much Ado concerns bantering Beatrice (Rachel Fitzgerald) and Benedick (Brian Hatcher), whose relationship is nowhere near a fairy-tale romance. “They’re not the young ingénue couple that we usually see in love stories,” Thompson said in a recent phone interview. “These two characters have a history. There’s a charged connection between them. They claim they want nothing to do, not only with each other, but with love at all.” Also in the cast are Lynn Couch, Scott Douglas, Drew Doyle, Amanda Garcia, Atom Hill, Ryan Holmberg, LaNita Hudson, Lauren Lutz, Meigie Mabry, Mark Peterson, John Serembe and Lucia Wyss.
Thompson, director of education at Lakewood Playhouse, is new to Animal Fire but not to outdoor Shakespeare; he spent two years acting with Fairbanks (Alaska) Shakespeare Theatre. Much Ado will be his first Olympia production. It’s also the first Animal Fire show since 2015’s King John. After several years of performances, the all-volunteer company needed a break, said Hatcher, who, with husband Douglas, leads the company’s core production team.
What: Much Ado About Nothing
Where: Water Garden, Capitol Campus,
416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Fridays – Sundays, June 30 – July 23
How much: free