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Tony Award-Winning Director Puts Her Own Spin on Classic Shakespeare Comedy

Tony Award-winning director Kathleen Marshall returns to The Old Globe to direct what she calls the first romantic comedy: Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

Tony Award-winning director Kathleen Marshall jumped on the chance to direct what she calls one of the first romantic comedies: Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," opening at The Old Globe later this month. 

The director, who last directed The Globe's "Love's Labor's Lost," had seen the production several times on stage and on film, but she had never tackled the piece herself. 

The play follows headstrong Beatrice (played by Sara Topham) and bachelor Benedick (played by Michael Hayden), a pair meant for each other. Everyone can see that they're meant for each other - but themselves. 

"They're kind of the first time you see a couple spar and bicker and fall in love on stage," Marshall said. It's a timeless dynamic seen on stage and in the movies plenty of times since Shakespeare. 

It's a comedy on the surface, Marshall said, but the play delves deeper as it progresses. 

"It's a really well-constructed play in that you go from a comic scene to an emotional scene and back to a dramatic scene and into a comedic scene and back to an emotional scene and into a love scene, and it really has a wonderful balance to it," she said. 

When audiences come to see the show, they'll see Marshall's own spin on the piece - most noticeably, the setting. The play is set on the Italian Riviera in the early 1930s, a place Marshall said is commonly associated with beauty and pleasure - but also a place where mischief can happen. 

"When you think of the Riviera, it's sort of fun-soaked and beautiful and where romance can happen," Marshall said.

Marshall wanted to set the play in the 1930s because it was a period in history where women, for the first time, had more freedom than they had had before. 

"It's the early 1930s, so women have had a degree of more freedom than they've had before, in terms of how they dressed and how they behave and how they talk and the choices that they make in life," she explained. "That was important to me too, that it's a time when men and women are on a more equal footing."

Even though "Much Ado About Nothing" was written hundreds of years ago, Marshall said, it's more accessible than other Shakespeare plays. The language is clear, the relationships are clear and the characters and vivid and real. 

Plus, Marshall said, the characters are so relatable and human. 

"They all are flawed, but they all are very recognizable in their behavior," Marshall said. "What's amazing is that as much as has changed since Shakespeare wrote this play, there's also a lot that's the same in terms of how people relate to each other and how people cautiously find their way into relationships."

When audiences come to see "Much Ado About Nothing," Marshall said, she hopes they walk out feeling happy and hopeful. 

"This is a play in which everybody, for the most part, finds their joy at the end," Marshall said. "Even if it's unexpected or not the way they thought it was going to happen, they stumble into happiness and joy, and so I hope that for an audience, we give them a little bit of happiness and joy as well."

"Much Ado About Nothing" starts performances at The Old Globe on Aug. 12 and runs until Sept. 16 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. The play was written by William Shakespeare. Kathleen Marshall directs. For tickets, click here.

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