The Classics Theatre Project Returns to Live Theatre With A Lighthearted Season Opener
By Cristee Cook
The Classics Theatre Project was founded on the idea of making classics accessible. Their 2019 debut season opened with Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love and included Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, and a one-man, radio show version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Now, with over a year lost to the pandemic, TCTP is back on the boards, offering a nostalgic 1990s take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Opening Friday, June 11th and playing through Sunday, June 27th at The Addison Conference and Theatre Center, this production invites audiences to bring a picnic and enjoy a lighthearted, refreshing evening of theatre under the stars. I spoke with Artistic Director Joey Folsom about the production and how the company is approaching the play.
Folsom shared that when The Classics Theatre Project was founded, they decided to focus on classic theatre because, as he said, “I like theater for social change. I think that there's a lot of latitude for that in classic works. And there's an accessibility in it. Whether we’re doing a Moliere play or Shakespeare, there is a lot of potential in classic works to take current social/political, community issues and incorporate them.”
For this project, however, Folsom and the team chose a lighter approach. Coming out of a pandemic, they wanted to offer audiences a “refreshing” experience. He went on to share, “I think audiences want comfort. I think it's a risk for any theater to be putting up anything coming out of this, because we just don't know. We don't know how apprehensive or willing people are going to be to attend, so what can be refreshing? What can be comforting?”
Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing offers romance, humor, and compassion. To add to this, the production team decided to present the play with a nostalgic 1990s theme. Folsom shared that they chose this period specifically to, again, offer accessibility. With familiar musical and cultural references, he hopes the concept will invite audiences to “lean in, relax, and be open to the experience of attending live theatre again.”
He went on to say, “…the ambiguous middle 90s – There was plenty of garbage going on in the world in the 90s. But when people think about the 90s, they think about Nirvana and MTV and there's a comfort to it that make you feel good. Maybe it makes you think of a time when things felt more innocent.”
Even with a lighthearted approach, Folsom said that the cast and crew is still discovering lessons within the play that will speak to a late-stage pandemic audience. In Much Ado, Shakespeare includes themes of social status, communication, deception and gossip, and what it means to be honorable. Folsom shared that one of the lessons the play is teaching him is that there’s an ability to have discourse and resolution in a way that preserves relationships.
He said, “there are lessons in the show, but nothing that’s too preachy. People can come in and can observe something. And hopefully it can be a steppingstone toward getting back to some of the heavier stuff that. But I don't think people want to be beat down by anything right now.”
North Texas audiences will also be excited to see the work of an out-of-town director on this project. This production is Adapted and Directed by Nic McMinn, with whom Folsom collaborated with in a Colorado production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Folsom said McMinn has a rich education in, and understanding of, Shakespeare’s world and offers deep, nuanced insights into to the play.
Ultimately, Folsom said this production is all about the audience. He went on to share that “the thing that I keep hammering, not just in the production, but in conversations with other professionals in the community is this is all about the audience. You know, theatre is not theatre unless it is live and in-person with an audience. And I’m really looking forward to engaging with the audience.”
The Classics Theatre Project presents William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, in an outdoor setting at The Addison Conference and Theatre Center (outside The Stone Cottage) – Friday, June 11 through Sunday, June 27, 2021. Several performances include special bonuses and themes, including Friday night “date nights,” a trivia night, and a team night. For all performances, more information, and tickets, visit TCTP online. Tickets are also available for purchase at the door.