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NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park stages an all-black “Much Ado About Nothing”

NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park stages an all-black “Much Ado About Nothing”
The company of Much Ado About Nothing. [Photo: Joan Marcus/Public Theater]

Central Park’s iconic summer theater event is getting a topical twist in these politically charged times.

The 57th annual Shakespeare in the Park festival is staging an all-black version of Much Ado About Nothing set in Georgia during the upcoming presidential election year.

“When you look at Much Ado, the first thing the play asks, Shakespeare asks, he says they are coming from war. And when I started thinking about wars, I’m reminded that we’re fighting for values in America now more than anything,” said Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon in a video for publictheater.org. “And Much Ado is really about protecting those values of love, family, respect, all those things that we say we believe in. And I said, so let’s set it 2020 next spring a year from now—let’s see what our country looks like.”

Leon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing is led by Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black, The Color Purple) and swaps Aragon, Italy, for Aragon, Georgia. By updating the time and location of the play, Leon is aiming to pull out deeper universal truths from Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.

“To do Much Ado with this particular company, which is an all African American company, it sort of says something else as well: our stories are for everybody,” Leon said. “And we invite everybody to sit in the park, to listen to everybody’s stories.”

Much Ado About Nothing is currently running through June 23.

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