Rochester Institute of Technology student John Oliphant, one of the first student-directors of a campus theater production, takes on “Much Ado About Nothing,” Shakespeare’s comedy of errors and best intentions. The play opens this weekend at the university with three performances, 7 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. All performances take place in Ingle Auditorium in RIT’s Student Alumni Union.
“I have directed plays and films before, but never Shakespeare,” says Oliphant, a second-year student in the multidisciplinary studies program in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. “I’ll work with the actors, helping them to understand the meaning of their lines and create the emotions underlying their actions. I make decisions regarding everything from characterization to costuming.”
The play, set in Messina, Sicily, revolves around main characters, Hero and Claudio, a couple who is soon to be married. They conspire to get reluctant friends Beatrice and Benedict to admit their affection for one another and eventually marry, but plans go awry.
“Directing Shakespeare is a particular joy because I have little to work with but dialogue, so essentially the play becomes a sketch that I can color and embellish with my own brand of humor and set of particular theatrical sensibilities,” says Oliphant, who is focusing on theater, creative writing and film while at RIT.
The play is one of several sponsored by The RIT Players, a student club organization. Oliphant was selected as director and will be joined by Meghan Lima as assistant director. All proceeds from the play will go toward the continued theater productions.
“This production would not be here if not for the love that so, so many people have for it,” says Oliphant, who added that the theater group has had some financial challenges that they’ve overcome. “It has been an uphill battle every step of the way, but I think the production is stronger for it. We want to show you what we made.”
Tickets for the play can be purchased the evening of the performances at the theater. Tickets are $4 for students, $5 for faculty and staff, and $6 for off-campus guests.