Acting group presents ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Jennie Kushner

The group Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” Oct. 7 at 7:30 at the Bama Theatre.

Improbable Fictions aims to modernize Shakespeare in unlikely ways. Nic Helms, a graduate student studying English literature, began the series last March with a reading of “Twelfth Night.”

            The cast of about 20 has rehearsed for less than a week to present “Much Ado,” but Helms said the show should be exciting.

            “For most staged readings, the actors are trapped behind podiums,” he said. “This show is loosely blocked, so it’s going to look more like a rehearsal. It hits that point where the performance starts to gel.”

            Mark Hughes Cobb and Stephanie Fitts will play the lead roles of Benedick and Beatrice.

            Helms said the show should run about 90 minutes without intermission. The pre-show music begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but $1 donations to the Bama Theatre Restoration fund are appreciated.

            “Shakespeare need not be intimidating. Come hear the play and enjoy yourself. You need to arrive with your imagination engaged,” Helms said.

            Before performing their first show, “Twelfth Night,” Helms was unsure what the response would be.

            “Laughter was scarce for the first two acts,” he said. “So it was that [character] Feste began act three by humming [Lady Gaga’s] ‘Bad Romance.’ The Bama Theatre seemed to crack open with laughter, and the rest of the show went beautifully.”

            “Laughter. Spectacle. Engagement. That’s culture,” Helms said.

            Helms said the actors for the show include faculty, community members and UA students.

             “Several English 205 instructors are teaching ‘Much Ado’ in connection with this event, and many are sending their students for extra credit,” Helms said. “This gives students a chance to go see Shakespeare while they are studying it.”

            Helms said this is a zero-budget show and should be exciting for those attending.

            “The actors are free to move around and do whatever they want,” he said. “It’s like a play light. It’s a far cry beyond just a reading. There are no props; everything is coming out of the actors’ closet.”

            Alexandra Franklin, a freshman majoring in English, said “Much Ado about Nothing” is her favorite Shakespeare play because of its combination of dramatic elements.

            “It’s a comedy, so you’ve got an incredibly witty dialogue running throughout the play. I’m convinced that ‘Much Ado’ is the inspiration for 99 percent of modern romantic comedies,” she said. “The banter between Beatrice and Benedick is sharp and really funny. That’s something that you understand when you read the play.”

            Staged readings really enhance Shakespeare’s work, allowing his dialogue to reach its full potential, she said.

“Shakespeare is, obviously, amazing to read, but his plays were meant to be performed, so the staged readings should give an added dimension of realism and vibrancy to an already incredibly nuanced and riveting play,” she said.

            On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Improbable Fictions will present King Lear in the Ferguson Theater.

            Improbable Fictions is sponsored by UA’s Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies.

            For the cast list and for more information, visit Improbable Fictions at