Shakespeare Theatre to Stage 'Free For All' MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, 8/20-9/1

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The Shakespeare Theatre Company's annual Free For All is a much-loved Washington tradition, offering free Shakespeare performances to the general public for the past 22 years. This year the beloved tradition launches the Company's 2013-2014 Season by reviving Much Ado About Nothing, initially presented during the 2011-2012 Season with original direction by Ethan McSweeny. Much Ado About Nothing will run at STC's Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW) from August 20-September 1, 2013. Resident Assistant Director Jenny Lord will direct this delightful summer comedy for residents and visitors to D.C.

Beatrice claims that no man on Earth can please her; Benedick vows he will die a bachelor. Everyone but Beatrice and Benedick can see these two were made for each other. In one of the greatest romantic comedies ever written, Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare tells the story of two young lovers, Hero and Claudio, their quick-witted sparring companions, Beatrice and Benedick, and the schemes of friends and foes to twist the couples' relationships. A perennial fan favorite, Much Ado About Nothing has become ingrained in popular culture, thanks in part to Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film starring Branagh and Emma Thompson, and most recently in Joss Whedon's modern cinematic retelling starring Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker. The setting of STC's production of Much Ado About Nothing is inspired by 1930s Cuba, updating the original play's island milieu, frothy mix of military and social conflict and Catholic background for a new era and continent. Shakespeare's most playful of romantic comedies comes to life through the sound and rhythms of Afro-Cuban music and dance.

More than 640,000 people have attended the Free For All since 1991, when Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Founding Chairman R. Robert Linowes inaugurated the tradition of free Shakespeare in D.C. with Kahn's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Free For All will be staged at STC's state-of-the-Art Theatre, Sidney Harman Hall, for the fifth year (610 F Street NW; Metro Stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown). "We are pleased that STC is able to offer free Shakespeare productions to as wide of an audience as possible even during these challenging economic times," said Kahn. "One of the major goals of the Free For All is to make Shakespeare accessible to diverse audiences-people who have never been to the theatre, people who are unable to pay for tickets or afford a babysitter, young people, students, people on fixed incomes. They all come to experience the magic of Shakespeare, to see how his words and ideas still resonate with us more than 400 years later."

STC's 2013-2014 Season subscribers and Friends of Free For All may reserve tickets in advance for select performances. Anyone may become a Friend of Free For All by making a tax-deductible contribution of $200.

Leadership Support for this year's Free For All production of Much Ado About Nothing is provided by Ameriprise Financial, CoStar Group and The Free For All Community Partners, the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities-an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts-the Friends of Free For All, the Philip L. Graham Fund, Westfield and The Washington Post. Additional support has been provided by PEPCO.

Similar to last year, STC is offering multiple ways for patrons to obtain tickets to the Free For All. Performances will take place August 20-21, 25, 27-28 and September 1 at 7:30 p.m.; August 22-24 and 29-31 at 8 p.m.; and August 24-25, 31 and September 1 at 2 p.m. All tickets are general admission.

ONLINE TICKET LOTTERY:

For those patrons who like to plan ahead, an online ticket lottery is available. Prior to each performance, STC will release tickets to the lottery winners at random. Each winner will receive up to TWO (2) tickets via the online lottery.

Visit http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/ffa between 12:01 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the day BEFORE an evening performance. The lottery closes precisely at 8 p.m. Patrons will be notified via email if they have been selected for the next day's performance. Tickets can be picked up from will call starting two hours before show time on the day of the performance and all tickets MUST be picked up by one half hour prior to show time or they will be released to the Ticket Line. Lotteries for the matinee performances will close one day earlier. The lottery will close on Thursday at 8 p.m. for the Saturday Matinee performance and Friday at 8 p.m. for the Sunday Matinee performance.

The Ticket Line is an option for those who weren't able to enter the online ticket lottery, for anyone who didn't win the online ticket lottery, for groups who want to sit together and for those last minute planners. The Ticket Line will form outside of Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW) prior to each performance. STC will reserve up to 200 tickets for the Ticket Line for each performance. Tickets will be released to patrons in the line two hours before each performance. Often, the line begins to form earlier. Each person in line can receive up to TWO (2) tickets.

As in previous years, Season subscribers and Friends of Free For All may reserve tickets in advance for select performances. Anyone may become a Friend of Free For All by making a tax-deductible contribution of $200.

Patrons can follow STC on Facebook (facebook.com/ShakespeareinDC) and Twitter (twitter.com/ShakespeareinDC) for chances to win Free For All tickets, daily updates on the line and additional information including trivia. Patrons are also encouraged to connect with other theatregoers through social media and talk about their Free For All experiences.

THE CAST

Kathryn Meisle resumes her leading role as Beatrice alongside Derek Smith. Meisle has been previously seen with Smith at STC as Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal and has many Broadway credits including Elmire in Tartuffe, for which she received a Tony Award nomination, as well as A Touch of the Poet, The Constant Wife, London Assurance, The Rehearsal and Racing Demon. Meisle can be seen in the films You've Got Mail and Rosewood. Her many television credits include Body of Proof,Private Practice, The Closer, Bones, Lie to Me, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, NYPD Blue and Oz.

Derek Smith resumes his leading role as Benedick with Kathryn Meisle. Last seen at STC as Hlestakov in The Government Inspector and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, Smith played Romeo in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's first production of Romeo and Juliet in 1986. He also appeared at STC in The School for Scandal, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and The Doctor's Dilemma. His Broadway credits include The Green Bird for which he received a Tony Award nomination, The Government Inspector,Timon of Athens, Jackie: An American Life, Ring 'Round the Moon, Getting and Spending and Scar inThe Lion King. Off-Broadway, Smith has appeared in Sylvia, King John, Dark Rapture, Cruise Control,Ten By Tennessee, The Green Bird and The Witch of Edmonton. Smith has been seen in more than 20 plays regionally and internationally including 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Serpent Woman, Hamlet,Misalliance and The Servant of Two Masters at The American Repertory Theatre.

Tony Plana will star as this production's Leonato. Plana is best known for his award-winning role as Ignacio Suarez, father to America Ferrera's character in the groundbreaking ABC series Ugly Betty. He has also appeared on TV in Desperate Housewives, 24 and Resurrection Boulevard and in films such asPrimal Fear with Richard Gere and ¡Three Amigos! with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Plana trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and has extensive live theatre experience, including Zoot Suit and The Boys of Winter on Broadway, along with performances at the La Jolla Playhouse, the New York Public Theatre and the California Shakespearean Festival. Plana is the co-founder and executive artistic director of the East L.A. Classic Theatre, a group comprised primarily of Hispanic American theatre professionals. There he has developed a literacy program called Beyond Borders: Literacy through Performing Arts, which enables students to expand their educational horizons and academic achievements by moving beyond their personal, cultural and vocational borders. Plana has adapted and directed numerous Shakespearean plays, specifically conceived for minority communities with little or no theatregoing experience.

Floyd King will once again play Verges, following his roles as The Postmaster in STC's The Government Inspector and Geronte in The Heir Apparent. A favorite with D.C. audiences, King has appeared in numerous productions at STC including An Ideal Husband, Richard II, As You Like It, Ion, Twelfth Night,All's Well That Ends Well and many others. He has also appeared on at the Studio Theatre, Ford's Theatre, Signature Theatre, the Folger Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. King was an instructor with the Juilliard School from 1992 to 2008 and currently teaches with STC's Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University.

Ted Van Griethuysen reprises his Helen Hayes Award-winning role as Dogberry. Van Griethuysen, like King, is also a well-known D.C. actor, known by STC audiences for last season's performances as Antigonus/Old Shepherd in The Winter's Tale, Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream and the King of France in the Free For All presentation of All's Well That Ends Well. He has also appeared inCymbeline, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Richard II, Henry V and many more. He won a Drama Desk Award for his performance in Inadmissible Evidence on Broadway and has earned a total of six Helen Hayes Awards for his performances at the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the Studio Theatre. He has taught at both Columbia University and Mount Vernon College.

Returning cast members of the original production of Much Ado About Nothing include Carlos J. Gonzalez as First Watch, Mark Hairston as Borachio, Rachel Spencer Hewitt as Margaret and Lawrence Redmond as Friar Francis. New cast members include Gilbert Cruz as Antonio, Ana Isabel Dow as Hero, Dion Graham as Don Pedro, Pomme Koch as Conrade, Joseph Midyett as Claudio, Thom Rivera as Don John, Carlos Saldaña as Balthasar and Deidra LaWan Starnes as Ursula, along with Pico Alexander, Mark Brown-Rodriguez, Alina Collins-Maldonado, Jamison Foreman, Thony Mena and Katherine Turner.

THE DIRECTORS

Jenny Lord, STC's Resident Assistant Director, will direct this year's Free For All production of Much Ado About Nothing after having previously served as Assistant Director for the 2011 original production. Lord directed last year's Free For All production of All's Well That Ends Well and has served as the Assistant Director at STC for fourteen productions including The Servant of Two Masters and Strange Interlude.She also directed the 2011 STC Acting Fellows Project, Dream a Little Dream, as well as several readings for the ReDiscovery Series. In New York, Lord directed Going Down Swingin' and Don Imbroglio for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, as well as The Filthy Habit for Manhattan Opera Theatre. Regionally, Lord directed productions at Dallas Theater Center, New Century Theatre, Berkeley Opera and 42nd Street Moon and assisted directors at Geva Theatre Center, Mint Theatre Company, California Shakespeare Theater and Music Theatre Group. She is a graduate of Yale University.

Ethan McSweeny grew up in Washington, D.C. and directed the original 2012 production of Much Ado About Nothing. Previous credits with STC include last season's hit production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Ion, Major Barbara, for which he received a Helen Hayes nomination, and The Persians. He made his New York debut with the Off-Broadway premiere of Never the Sinner(Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards) and before the age of 30 directed the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, Tony Award nomination). His D.C. credits include the world premiere of A Time to Kill at Arena Stage, the original Never the Sinner at Signature Theatre (Helen Hayes nomination) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Centerstage (Baltimore City Paper, Best of 2008). He recently directed the world premiere of ReGina Taylor's Trinity River Plays for Dallas Theater Center and the Goodman Theatre and staged a critically acclaimed revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses for the Stratford Festival in Canada. Of his more than 60 productions of new plays, classics and musicals recent highlights include: the New York premieres of 100 Saints You Should Know for Primary Stagesand 1001 for Page 73 (both productions were named among the Top Ten plays of 2007 by Time Out and Entertainment Weekly magazines), the West Coast premiere of Adam Gwon's musical Ordinary Days for South Coast Repertory Theatre, world premieres of In This Corner (San Diego Critics Circle Award) and A Body of Water at The Old Globe and the Guthrie Theater and revivals of A View from the Bridge and Arms and the Man at the Guthrie Theater. He currently serves as co-Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Theatre Company and Treasurer of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and received the first ever undergraduate degree in theatre from Columbia University.

THE DESIGNERS

Lord has assembled a design team of many familiar faces from the original 2011 staging of Much Ado About Nothing. Sound Designer/Composer Steven Cahill, Lighting Designer Tyler Micoleau, Costume Designer Clint Ramos and Set Designer Lee Savage create the gorgeous backdrop for this classic production.

THE ARTISTIC TEAM

Lord is assisted by Choreographer Marcos Santana, who choreographed the 2011 production, Stage Manager Cynthia Cahill, Wig Designer Chuck LaPointe, Vocal Coach Ursula Meyer, Assistant Stage Manager Hannah O'Neil. Casting for Much Ado About Nothing was done by Pat McCorkle of McCorkle Casting along with STC's Resident Casting Director, Daniel Neville-Rehbehn.

Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) has become one of the nation's leading theatre companies. Today, STC is synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theatre more accessible.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Managing Director Chris Jennings, STC's innovative approach to Shakespeare and other classic playwrights has earned it the reputation as the nation's premier classical theatre company. By focusing on works with profound themes, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the playwrights he influenced, the Company's artistic mission is unique among theatre companies: to present theatre of scope and size in an imaginative, skillful and accessible American style that honors the playwrights' language and intentions while viewing their work through a 21st-century lens.

A leader in arts education, STC has a stable of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages, from school programs and acting classes to discussion series as well as accessible programs like the annual Free For All, one of STC's most beloved annual traditions, allowing audiences to experience Shakespeare at no charge.

Located in our nation's capital, STC performs in two theatres, the Lansburgh Theatre and Sidney Harman Hall in downtown Washington, D.C., creating a dynamic, cultural hub of activity that showcases STC as well as outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. STC moved into the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre in March 1992, after six years in residency in the Folger Library's Elizabethan theatre. At that time the Penn Quarter neighborhood was not considered desirable by many; since then, STC has helped drive its revitalization. The 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall opened in October 2007.

PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES:

August 20-21, 25, 27-28 and September 1 at 7:30 p.m.

August 22-24 and 29-31 at 8 p.m.

August 24-25, 31 and September 1 at 2 p.m.

All performances run at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

ACCESSIBILITY: Sidney Harman Hall is accessible to persons with disabilities, offering wheelchair-accessible seating and restrooms, audio enhancement and Braille and large print programs.

  • An audio-described performance of Much Ado About Nothing will be on Saturday, August 31 at 2 p.m.
  • A sign-interpreted performance of Much Ado About Nothing will be on Saturday, August 31 at 2 p.m.
    Seating in the sign-interpreted and audio description section can be reserved by calling the box office.


?PARKING: The LAZ garage is located directly beneath Sidney Harman Hall; enter from E or F Streets between 6th and 7th Streets. E Street is the recommended entry because of events at the Verizon Center. When entering, follow signs directing you to 620 F Street. Elevators will take you to the Winter Garden lobby next door to Harman Hall on F Street.

METRO: Gallery Pl-Chinatown station on the Red/Green/Yellow lines: Use the Arena/7th Street exit. Sidney Harman Hall is visible one block to your left. Judiciary Square station on the Red line: use the F Street exit to the National Building Museum, turn left and walk 1.5 blocks along F Street to 6th Street.

Box Office: 202.547.1122 (voice) TTY: 202.638.3863 Toll Free: 877.487.8849 or ShakespeareTheatre.org.


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