Sprezzatura is an Italian word that, loosely translated, is the art of looking and sounding effortlessly “cool.” The funny thing about Sprezzatura is that it truly took a lot of effort; it was practiced during the age of Shakespeare as a way for courtiers to impress nobles. Sprezzatura could almost be defined as a kind of performance art, something that did not escape Shakespeare’s eye — or his pen.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” one of Shakespeare’s more famous comedies, pokes fun at the art of Sprezzatura through the satirical use of fanciful language and social graces. And while it may seem to a 21st century observer that all Shakespearian language was “fanciful,” “Much Ado about Nothing” takes the language and further contrives it. The language in the play can prove a struggle for modern-day actors and actresses to get the hang of. Just ask Dr. Deidre Onishi, who is currently directing the play at Cameron University.
“(Directing) has been an absolute delight,” Onishi said, “But the language is difficult. It has taken a bit of work to get them used to it. But they’ve worked so hard.”
A comedic play about misunderstandings, love and deception, “Much Ado About Nothing,” begins as Count Claudio falls in love with Hero, the daughter of his host. Hero’s cousin Beatrice, a confirmed spinster, and Benedict, an eternal bachelor, are each duped into believing the other is in love with them. From this situation, chaos and hilarity ensue.
“Much Ado About Nothing” marks the third play in Cameron’s current theatrical season, and the second that Onishi has directed this season after “A Clean House” last October. Every play this season was chosen for its female characters in what is being called “The Year of Women’s Roles.”
“The women in this case are Beatrice and Hero, two very strong women,” Onishi said. “Beatrice is being played by Ciara Renee and Hero is Joy Christie. They’ve both done a lot with the department, but this is the first time they’ve had a major Shakespearian role.”
In another first, this will mark the first time that Cameron has performed a Shakespearian comedy since Onishi began her tenure at the university eight years ago — and they are pulling out all of the stops for the occasion.
According to Onishi, it will be a pure Shakespearian production from the costumes down to the set design.
“It is good for the costumers to get this experience, at least once, and the set designers, too,” Onishi said.
Onishi recognizes that Shakespeare can be intimidating to some, but she stressed that this production will be exciting and she hopes that community members will give it a chance by coming out for, what she calls, “a real experience.”
“There’s music, there’s dancing, there’s sword fighting…a lot of conniving between characters, there are evil characters and valorous characters, it is quite a mixture of different styles,” Onishi said. “I do hope people come out and see that it is different than what we usually do.”
“Much Ado About Nothing” will be followed by “Disney’s Freaky Friday” in April, a musical that celebrates the original novel by Mary Rogers as well as the Disney movies. The musical will conclude Cameron’s 2019-2020 season.