Drama club puts western twist on Shakespeare comedy

Woodland Regional High School drama club director Bailey Gartman, right, talks with students Chasity Lafrancois, left, and Cayleigh Cummings during a rehearsal for the club’s upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Dec. 5 at the school in Beacon Falls. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland Regional High School drama club is adding its own twist to a Shakespeare comedy.

The club will present three productions of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” on Friday and Saturday.

The play follows the ups and downs of the romantic relationships between the characters Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice. While Shakespeare wrote the play with the setting of Messina, Italy, the drama club decided to do its rendition with an Old West setting.

“We definitely wanted to draw people in and it is really fun to do it in a certain theme,” said sophomore Cayleigh Cummings, who plays Hero. “I think it really works with this story because the characters are so vivacious.”

Cummings said the change of setting allowed for new and unique costumes, which will be traditional western clothing.

“It is going to be a lot of fun and bright, bright colors,” she said.

Woodland drama teacher and club director Bailey Gartman said the change of setting and costumes was the students’ idea.

“Students came up with the idea of it being a western, students made the costumes, students made the sets,” Gartman said. “So it is really a student passion project.”

Gartman is a 2015 Woodland graduate and former student of Susan Cinoman, the previous drama teacher at Woodland who retired last year. When she heard the school was looking for a new drama teacher, Gartman said she immediately applied.

“I was like of course I want to be here. I want to take up that,” Gartman said.

Gartman said she loves Shakespeare but was initially worried that the students would find “Much Ado About Nothing” daunting. However, that wasn’t the case.

“They took on this project with so much energy. It was surprising. I was almost afraid to tell them I wanted to do Shakespeare. But they took it and said, ‘Yes, let’s do it,’” Gartman said.

The actors have embraced the challenge of bringing a Shakespeare classic — and its unique writing style — to the Woodland stage.

“You kind of have to dive in head first because it’s essentially like a whole new language. You have to read and understand and read between the lines,” said junior Wesley Belanger, who plays Don Pedro. “It is easy to miss out on things if you don’t know it. To know it really brings the pieces he writes together.”

The actors are confident that the audience will easily follow the story, even if they don’t understand all of the lines.

“I think they will understand it because a lot of the comedy in it is physical. Anyone will have a good time,” said senior Noel Cummings, who plays Benedict.

Belanger said the entire cast has been working hard and is excited to put it all together on stage.

“Shakespeare has written some phenomenal pieces. This is one of the funnier ones. We are doing a good job portraying it,” Belanger said.

If you go

What: Woodland drama club’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing”

When: Dec. 13, 7 p.m.; Dec. 14, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Where: Woodland Regional High School, 135 Back Rimmon Road, Beacon Falls

Tickets: $10. Tickets available at the door