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

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

Posted on July 8, 2021 at 7:48 am by

Categories: Arts, Entertainment

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