The Oregon State University Theater Department’s main summer event begins this weekend as Bard in the Quad returns for a production of Much Ado About Nothing.
Bard in the Quad is Oregon State University’s main theater production for the summer term. Each year, students and members of the local community gather over a period of several weeks to put together a production of one of William Shakespeare’s many plays. This year marks the 18th season of the program, getting its start in 2006.
What sets Bard in the Quad apart from other theater productions is the venue, or rather, the lack of one. Historically, each production is performed outside of the OSU Memorial Union, making use of the steps and the concrete landing. Audience members would sit in the grass of the quad, making the naming choice obvious.
“Bard is definitely different from all of our other shows during the school year,” said Tess Juarez, the stage manager for this year’s Bard in the Quad. “It has an outside element that makes technology a little more difficult, but with those difficulties you come to think on the spot and get creative with how to fix problems. I enjoy it a lot because this is where you can truly learn the techniques, especially from a tech side, to solve problems and work with what you have.”
However, this year faced a unique complication in production: construction and maintenance. The quad is undergoing what is being referred to as the Memorial Union Quad Repair Project, which has included replacement of cracked sidewalk panels, repair of the irrigation system, and perhaps most importantly, the complete reseeding of all grassy areas. For the new seeds to take root and properly grow, this year’s production had to relocate.
“It’s really fun to do a show that’s outside, on such a big stage,” said Leah Kahn, who is playing Ursula and Verges. “Just the space you have to cover, you’re not in a little theater so you can’t hear the sound echo back to you, so you have to be extra loud. It’s a bigger space to fill, so it’s a lot more intense.”
Luckily, the relocation was much simpler than one might assume. It turned out that there was still an open grassy area within view of the Memorial Union: the front of Strand Agriculture Hall. While this does come with new limitations, particularly the lack of verticality that the Memorial Union’s stairs typically supply for set design and blocking, the core of the Bard in the Quad experience remains intact.
“It strengthens your acting, because the text is very dense,” said Noah Fox, who plays Benedick. “At the same time, though, the characters are saying exactly how they’re feeling in every given moment. It’s up to the actor to use the text as their own.”
Audience members are encouraged to treat the show as an outdoor event. Expect to bring a blanket or chairs to sit on, food and drinks, and friends and family to enjoy the show together. Each show begins at 7:30 p.m., with seating opening to the public at 6:30 p.m., and typically lasts until about 10 p.m. Feel free to bring sunglasses for the early evening ( the audience faces west, toward the setting sun) and a jacket for when the evening cools off.
Madeline Braun, who portrays Beatrice, spoke about the value in acting Shakespeare, “If you can figure out how to portray the emotions in a Shakespeare play, it can be really beneficial as an actor, because they are emotions that can be used for a lot of different kinds of performances. The style of performing that we do for Bard in the Quad, where we’re in a unique space, it’s very open and physical, can be very interesting.”
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakspeare’s comedies, focusing on the duo of Benedick and Beatrice, two people who have sworn off love, especially from each other. In a lot of ways, it’s an early instance of the romantic comedy: full of trickery, witty characters, and eventually some dramatic stakes.
“Shakespeare is one of the first modern writers to explore the human condition in a way that we understand it,” said Elizabeth Helman, director of Bard in the Quad. “Most of his stories are so timeless; these are stories about the complex relationships that we have with friendship, and what it means to fall in love, and parents and children, people facing their own mortality. These are stories that last forever.”
- Tickets for Bard in the Quad are free for current OSU students with valid OSU ID, $17 for general admission, and $12 for youth and seniors. The ticket booth is in the SEC Plaza. Performances are Aug. 4-6 and 10-13.