There will be a robot and there might be steam. American River College’s production of the Shakespeare classic “Much ado about nothing” is a steampunk adaptation.
The character of Verges, portrayed by actor Jeremy Diefenbacher, will be a robot, according to the director of production, Pamela Downs.
The lead roles of Benedick and Beatrice will be played by Chris Bogard and Ashley Rose, while Claudio and Hero, the other lead characters, will be played by Micah Smith and Nicole Dilworth, respectively.
Downs says to expect a lot of laughs in this production.
“The play is a combination of romance and witty repartee and slapstick farce,” she said. “This particular production will probably have more broad comedy than the usual version and more of the farce element. Because of the steampunk style that we are doing (it) in, (it) lends itself to be more funny.”
Besides laughs and wit, “you will see an invented world of retro science fiction past,” Downs said. “The set designers are working with a lot of metal, a lot of machinery, that kind of thing. And the costume shop right now looks like a steampunk factory.”
Although there is a script, there was room for input from the cast. Downs said one of the scenes originally had characters playing cards and talking. But the scene was changed after a suggestion from an actor.
“One of the actors was looking at the language in (the script), and he is an actor that was trained in fencing and stage fighting last year in ‘The Three Musketeers.’” Downs said, referring to Bogard. “He said, ‘Could we do this as fencing practice, with foil?’ And I said, ‘Go practice it, bring it back to me and show me what that looks like.’”
Bogard said that inspiration for the scene change came while he and other actors were trying to figure out what the characters in the play would be doing on the night of the bachelor party. After considering the dialogue, Bogard thought the change “would go really well with dialogue that’s heavy on camaraderie,” and that his character, Benedick, could concentrate more on the fighting while other two characters talked.
“It was wonderful,” Downs says of the change. “It just makes the scene so much more active.”
Downs said she had wonderful time working with the team.
“They are delightful,” she said. “We laugh a lot. They are very disciplined, and I am having a wonderful time.”
The department’s goal is not only to make you laugh with this play but also to give you an appreciation of theater in general.
“Our goals for the audience is to have a cultural experience that is very accessible and enjoyable,” said Downs. “So we want the audience to have a really fun time, but we also want them to have an appreciation for Shakespeare and this wonderful play.”
Downs added that the goal of the production is also to “provide (an) educational experience for the whole campus.”
“Theater tickets are super expensive out in the world, and some people’s only chance to be exposed to Shakespeare is on a college campus. We take that seriously,” she said. “We usually do Shakespeare every other year. Just so that some time when you were here going to school, you saw some good Shakespeare, we hope.”
A play with steampunk style incorporated into it will not be left unnoticed by the Sacramento Steampunk Society.
Alumnus Michael Wise, a member of the Sacramento Steampunk Society, is designing some of the props, and the members of the group are attending the play in costume as a group event on April 26, according to Downs.
Downs added that there will also be “goggles, hats, weird weapons. The villain, Don John, wears a black greatcoat that almost looks like the Matrix.”
Gail Russell, costume designer at ARC, referred to an “inspiration wall,” a white board on the wall of the costume shop with a collection of pictures of different Victorian and steampunk style costumes and outfits. Russell said that details of the costumes are intentional, and not just thrown together.
The production will run April 25 through May 4 at the ARC Theater. Admission is $12, $10 for student and seniors. For more information, call (916) 484-8234.