Tour offers behind the scenes look at CRT's 'Much Ado About Nothing'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Fri., Feb. 14, 2014
(L-r): James Jelkin (Benedict), Sarah Wintermeyer (Beatrice), Colby Lewis (Claudio) and Briana Maia (Hero) break from rehearsal during a backstage tour of CRT's upcoming production of 'Much Ado About Nothing' on Feb. 8.  Photos by Melanie Savage.
(L-r): James Jelkin (Benedict), Sarah Wintermeyer (Beatrice), Colby Lewis (Claudio) and Briana Maia (Hero) break from rehearsal during a backstage tour of CRT's upcoming production of 'Much Ado About Nothing' on Feb. 8. Photos by Melanie Savage.

As part of Mansfield’s Winter Fun Week, The Connecticut Repertory Theatre offered a Feb. 8 behind-the-scenes look at its upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Dramaturg Levi Alpert (a junior undergrad in theatre studies), Jacelyn Szkrybalo (a senior theatre studies major intern) and Matthew Pugliese, interim managing director of the theatre, began with an inside look at the Nafe Katter Theatre stage.

Set construction had just begun, and professor Jack Nardi and third-year graduate student Jon Haupt were busy constructing a plywood platform. “We’ve just finished hanging lights, which leaves room for set construction to begin,” explained Pugliese. The theatre utilizes an intricate system of lights, which are positioned in a variety of ways. Some bars can lowered, so that lights can be affixed and positioned from ground level. Other lights are suspended from bars that are permanently affixed to the theatre’s ceiling. These must be accessed via the use of small, metal suspended cages, which are manually dragged along the ceiling, high above the theatre floor.

Lighting is manipulated via a combination of manual and computerized controls, explained Pugliese, leading the tour along a narrow catwalk to a dark control booth above the theatre. There are generally three or four people in the control booth for the duration of a show, explained Pugliese, including a sound operator, a light operator and the stage manager. While some lighting is controlled manually, sound for a production is completely computerized, explained Pugliese, pointing to a complex master sound board.

Underneath the stage, in an area accessed by a dark stairwell, is space that is used both for storage and for extra dressing-room space. The area also provides access to the stage from below. Though “Much Ado About Nothing” doesn’t utilize the feature, the stage flooring can be manipulated to allow for an actor to appear from below through the floor from any number of different locations.

Upstairs, the tour provided a look at the rehearsal space in a nearby classroom. Hanging on one wall were illustrations laying out the production’s set design, as well as drawings depicting costumes. The CRT production will feature a 1950s New England setting, said Alpert, further explaining the duties of the production’s dramaturg. Alpert’s job is to research the script and work closely with the director (Paul Mullins) and the actors. For this particular production, Alpert needed to research both the original time period of the play (written between 1598 and 1599), and the modern-day setting. “With Shakespeare, it’s always about trying to help the audience find a way to identify with it,” said Pugliese.

Mullins, returning to CRT following last season’s "Hairspray," said, "'Much Ado About Nothing' is a comedy of manners. The most socially and psychologically realistic of Shakespeare's comedies, the play and its ‘merry war’ between the sexes is a precursor of restoration comedies, screwball comedies and even the romantic comedies of today. We wanted this production to be an American telling of the story. We chose the early 1950s, the end of the Korean War, as the period for Shakespeare's tale of soldiers returning from war, the women at home, love, jealousy, marriage, laughter and a few tears. More specifically, we chose to set the play in Newport, R.I., where wealth and leisure time provide this comedy of manners a perfect setting in which to blossom."

The cast will feature David McCann, playing Leonardo. Also appearing are graduate actors Thomas Brazzle, Darek Burkowski, Anthony Goes, Will Haden, Khetanya Henderson, James Jelkin, Colby Lewis, Olivia Saccomanno and Sarah Wintermeyer, as well as undergraduate actors Saul Alvarez, Gabriel Aprea, Harry Elfenbaum, Kevin Hilversum, Alison Janavaris, Briana Maia, John Manning, Ryan Marcone, JoonHo Oh, Susannah Resnikoff and Adam Schneemann.

The show will run from Feb. 27 through March 9. Call 860-486-2113 for tickets or for more information. Call or visit the box office for specific show dates and times, because performance schedules vary and are subject to change. Tickets are available online at

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