RWU Theatre presents Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” with a modern twist


Courtesy of Olivia Hauvuy

RWU actors and actresses must remain six feet apart on stage due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

It’s not every day that actors walk on stage in hazmat suits or use miniature grabbers with dinosaur heads to act out two individuals kissing. Yet, for RWU Theatre, these unique costumes and props are some of the ways the school’s acting community has worked around the pandemic to put on a show for students, faculty and staff that pokes fun at COVID-19.

“There’s something about if we do this like a normal play it will bring some comfort in a way because although we are in a pandemic, we can still have arts,” said freshman Oliver Sherry.

The cast will be performing William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” with an additional title called “Love in the Time of COVID.” The second name suits the cast’s theme by bringing the setting into a modern day climate during COVID-19. The plot follows two love stories after Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro return from fighting what is known as the “Covid Wars.” One romance is between Beatrice and Benedick, who were old lovers who now despise each other, yet family and friends attempt to trick them into falling in love again. Meanwhile, the second love story follows Hero and Claudio while the sinister Don Pedro sets out to falsely prove that Hero has been unfaithful to Claudio.

The fourteen-person cast has spent a lot of time working on adding comedy to the play by heavily focusing on props. Since physical contact is limited, small grabbers with dinosaur heads are being used to show characters kissing. Additionally, there will be a night watch known as the COVID Police who use whistles to yell at people who are not six feet apart.

“Many of the creative ways we work around the social distancing and other parameters put in place by the pandemic add comedic effect. We went for silly, and I think we nailed it on the head,” said freshman Korbin Johnson.

The cast also had to work around the current COVID-19 restriction of having only six individuals on stage at one time. Some scenes in the play called for more than six individuals so the cast solved this issue by using mannequins to stand in place of characters. The mannequins would wear the actors’ costumes while the actor said their lines from the gallery.

During this time, cast members have made the best out of the circumstances they’ve been given and are grateful to be back on the stage making new friends.

“The arts industry is virtually crumbling which is sad to see. It feels nice to reclaim doing live theatre in a space where we thought it would never be possible,” said junior Genevieve Ferrara.

While COVID-19 has influenced the performing arts in a multitude of ways, there have been some advantages.

“In a certain way, it has brought us together against a common enemy, in the sense that we all have to do the same things: wearing masks, social distancing and not sitting close together in the audience when we aren’t acting on stage. It builds up a greater sense of community because we’re all doing [the] right things; it shows we care about each other and that we’re willing to go the extra mile for each other,” said freshman Brian Martinez.

“This cast and crew are both so lovely and talented and I’m so grateful to have worked with them — they made each rehearsal special,” said junior Amanda Neff.

“Much Ado About Nothing: Love in the Time of Covid” will be performed in the Barn on Nov. 6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 8 at 2:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed on Zoom and YouTube, so visit the RWU Theatre webpage for more information. In person seating is limited to 13 individuals per show, so if you’re looking to attend live, call 401-254-3666 for reservations.