Fools and Madmen Returns With Hip-Hop Shakespeare
After touring their hip-hop adaptation of King Lear to Baltimore City Public Schools and neighborhoods last year, Baltimore artists Caitlin Carbone and Josh Thomas (who now go by the name 'fools and madmen') are back with a brand new show: a hip-hop adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Co-produced by Motor House and supported in part by Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, fools and madmen's Much Ado About Nothing is a mobile hip-hop adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most-loved romantic comedies, performing at various Baltimore City Public Schools and Motor House (May 27-June 2). The adaptation contains both classical Shakespearean text and original hip-hop lyrics and music. The resulting show is a lyrical and rhythmic mash-up of classical and modern language, of poetry and music.
"It works because Hip Hop and Shakespeare are both essentially poetry," says Thomas. "They are very similar in form, but their audiences and practitioners rarely cross. We want to collide the worlds."
"We hold both artforms to an equal height in terms of literary and artistic merit, and our shows present them both in equal integrity," adds Carbone.
Thomas and Carbone founded fools and madmen after receiving the 2018 Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts Creative Baltimore Fund grant to to produce their wildly successful adaptation of King Lear.
"Much Ado is a fun story; we wanted to throw a party this year," says Thomas. "We also wanted to draw out some subject matter that is relevant to 2019 and exists naturally in the script."
"Shakespeare's plays remain relevant over 400 years after they were written." Adapting Much Ado showed that," says Carbone. "We were writing it during the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings and couldn't ignore parallels. We highlighted the themes of believing women and spreading misinformation in an age of public pile-ons."
"These themes aren't new and they're not going anywhere," adds show director and new fools and madmen member, Aladrian C. Wetzel. "Our show is a comedy - it's a really funny show - but it also has that in it. We aren't ignoring it."
The show is a co-production with Station North mainstay Motor House, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is a Supporting Partner.
The show is performed in the round, to an audience of 40-70 people, no more than two rows deep. The ensemble features a cast of actors of color and includes performers of diverse artistic disciplines - classical actors, modern actors, spoken word poets, and hip-hop artists, with live musical accompaniment by three musicians. Run time: 1.5 hours.
Collaborating with diverse organizations and casting actors of color is part of FAM's mission to combatracial disparity in classical theatre. "People want to see themselves in the stories they watch," says Thomas. "And they want to hear themselves in the voices of the people telling the stories."
"Representation is extremely important, especially here in Baltimore City," says Wetzel. "People of color need to see a reflection of themselves on stage doing different kinds of theatre. Our experiences are unique, and we add a different kind of flavor to everything that we do. Why not have that expressed on stage? Especially when it's taking an old white guy's words and making them our own."
"There's this idea that Shakespeare belongs to a certain group of people, and that others can't own it. But Shakespeare invented the human in story-form as we know it," adds Carbone. "He wrote about these very human conditions, problems, relationships. The stories don't belong to any one culture or kind of person."
The group looks forward to producing more Hip Hop Shakespeare adaptations in the future, and anticipates their next show to be announced this summer.
Tickets to Motor House performances available here: