Theater & Arts

Director gives Shakespeare comedy a twist for the Fresno heat

James Anderson, left, and Andrew Trevino rehearse a scene for “Much Ado About Nothing” for the Woodward Shakespeare Festival.
James Anderson, left, and Andrew Trevino rehearse a scene for “Much Ado About Nothing” for the Woodward Shakespeare Festival.

Much Ado About Nothing” director Summer Session knows it gets hot in Fresno – that’s why she’s trying something different with her Woodward Shakespeare Festival play that opens Thursday at the park.

“It’s usually set in a different era,” she said of the Shakespeare comedy, “but I put it in the 1940s and at the beach. I wanted my actors to be comfortable.”

The cast has been practicing inside the two California Arts Academy buildings in Fresno, but when the crew takes the show to the festival stage at Woodward Park this week, she knows things could heat up.

Session said the era change was her concept and she is making sure the actors don’t overheat by wearing heavy costumes. “We make sure they aren’t doing excessive work they shouldn’t be doing,” she said.

But since the showings begin at 8 p.m., Session isn’t too worried. “Once the sun goes down, it starts to cool off more and it’s a lot easier.”

It’s Session’s first time directing at the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, but the Fresno State alum has directed plays at Fresno City, Fresno State and twice in the community.

The festival is in its 14th season, and wrapped up another play a few weeks before “Much Ado” begins.

The “Much Ado About Nothing” cast rehearses in Woodward Park before the show opens Aug. 2.

James Anderson, who plays Claudio, has been practicing all summer in the festival. He was also in “Othello,” which ended its run on July 7.

The 23-year-old said the cast makes sure they stay hydrated and someone brings a case of water.

In addition, Session’s wardrobe concept seems to work. “Our costumes are fairly summer ready,” he said, “a lot of shorts, a lot of bathing suits, not many layers.”

Anderson says finding shade and catching a breeze on stage “makes the biggest difference.”

Session and Anderson said “Much Ado” is a great comedy to wrap up the summer.

“I’m excited to see audience members and to have them enjoy the show,” Sessions said. “It’s going to be loads of fun.”

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

  • Thursdays-Saturdays Aug. 2-25, 8 p.m. nightly
  • Woodward Park Festival Stage
  • Free admission, $5 car entrance fee

Meanwhile ...

Six other noteworthy events happening this week:

  • Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7. Save Mart Center, 2650 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno. $39.50- $125.
  • Respite By the River with Richard Sirois and Mai Der Vang 6 p.m. Aug. 7. The Ranch House, San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, 11605 Old Friant Road, Fresno. Free.