Island Stage Left’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Premiers Tonight

Posted July 8, 2021 at 7:48 am by

Actors rehearse "Much Ado About Nothing." Island Stage Left, Contributed.

From Island Stage Left

“Much Ado About Noth­ing,” Shakespeare’s wit­ti­est com­e­dy, is Island Stage Left the­ater company’s cel­e­bra­to­ry re-open­ing pro­duc­tion, pre­mier­ing 8 p.m., Thurs­day, July 8 on the out­door stage, 1062 Wold Road.

“I love it after COVID because it’s got a hap­py end­ing,” said stage direc­tor Helen Machin-Smith. “It feels like a joy­ous play, after all – peo­ple learn from their mis­takes and go on, the roman­tic cycle con­tin­ues. It feels like a sum­mer play.”

COVID restric­tions have made live the­ater near­ly impos­si­ble for the past year, even out­doors. But the state’s reopen­ing reg­u­la­tions allow the show to go on.

“When I real­ized it, a huge wave of relief welled up,” Machin-Smith said.

Safe­ty remains the top pri­or­i­ty, though: cast and crew are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed, and a seat­ing area will be pro­vid­ed for audi­ence mem­bers who want to main­tain dis­tance from those who are maskless.

Set Dur­ing Span­ish Flu Pandemic

Actors rehearse "Much Ado About Nothing." Island Stage Left, Contributed.

“Much Ado About Noth­ing” takes place in a world emerg­ing from wartime, eager for sun­shine and laugh­ter. Benedick, a return­ing mil­i­tary offi­cer, engages in bouts of mock­ing repar­tee with Beatrice.

Mean­while, Clau­dio, a hero­ic junior offi­cer, falls head over heels for Hero, a sweet, beau­ti­ful young heiress. But a series of sly tricks – some well-inten­tioned, some thor­ough­ly vicious – throw the char­ac­ters into doubt and con­fu­sion. ISL co-founder Daniel Mayes plays Hero’s father, a man shak­en to the core by false accu­sa­tions against his daughter.

Machin-Smith has set the sto­ry in the Eng­lish coun­try­side, in the sum­mer of 1919, at the end of World War I, and of the Span­ish flu pandemic.

The cos­tumes, music and man­ners of that era (think Down­ton Abbey) enhance the show’s atmos­phere. Cos­tumer Kate Smokow­icz and island seam­stress­es Sharon Lan­nan, Jes­si­ca McDon­ald, Ani­ta Welch and Pat­ti Wick­ham have craft­ed peri­od dress­es for Beat­rice and Hero.

The Gam­ble of Scheduling

Prepar­ing the play over the past few months was a gam­ble. The cast of 14 includes pro­fes­sion­als from all over the country.

If the tiny the­ater com­pa­ny had start­ed pay­ing actors and crew, buy­ing props and cos­tumes and build­ing the set, only to be can­celed due to COVID, the con­se­quence was obvi­ous: “Stage Left goes bel­ly up,” Machin-Smith said.

But the gam­ble paid off. Asked for her favorite line from the play, Machin-Smith’s answer seems tai­lored to the birth of this pro­duc­tion: “But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.”

Bring blan­kets and/or warm clothes (even parkas) for when the sun goes down. Admis­sion is free, and dona­tions are grate­ful­ly accepted. 

If You Go

What: Shakespeare’s“Much Ado About Noth­ing,” set dur­ing the Span­ish Flu pandemic. 

When: July 8 through Aug. 8.

Where: Island Stage Left­’s out­door stage at 1062 Wold Road, San Juan Island.

Cost: Free, and dona­tions welcomed. 

Info: 360–378-5649 or

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Categories: Arts, Entertainment

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