‘Comedy of Errors’ kicks off outdoor theatre season
Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
After the pandemic-induced strain of the last few months, we all need a little laughter. And that is exactly what Ethington Theatre’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” will provide beginning Wednesday night.
The laughs will come on a newly constructed outdoor stage as the College of Fine Arts and Production kicks off its 2020-21 theatre season with one of William Shakespeare’s most comedic plays, which offers a refreshing reminder of the importance of learning to walk in another’s shoes.
The show, scheduled for 8 p.m. from Wednesday through Sunday outside the Fine Arts Building and also viewable on livestream, highlights two sets of identical twins who were separated at birth and the mishaps that ensue when they are mistaken for each other.
It is the shortest comedy Shakespeare wrote, and the director, COFAP Acting Instructor Michael Kary, wanted to take the production one step further to make it unique. The show, which is not typically known to contain a musical element, will showcase original compositions and choreography by senior theatre major Ryan Ardelt.
“I always look at, when we do Shakespeare here, how to make it accessible and understandable,” Kary said. “Ryan has done an amazing job of weaving the feel of the show into three big musical numbers.
“I think it’s really going to set us apart from any other version of this that anyone has seen, ever.”
For Ardelt, the best part of the experience was the opportunity to work alongside Kary, who wrote the lyrics to two of the three musical numbers. Kary entrusted Ardelt to compose and write lyrics for the final number.
“It was definitely an interesting process because we’re taking Shakespeare’s work and adapting it into song,” Ardelt said.
Ardelt was nervous about taking on the finale but was able to have fun with it and learn something new about himself in the process.
“I definitely stretched myself as an artist, and I’m really happy he had me do the whole finale myself,” he said. “It pushed me in ways I haven’t been pushed before.”
Leads Antipholus of Syracuse, played by Christian Bradford, and Antipholus of Ephesus, played by Brandon Brown, said the outdoor production gives a new Grand Canyon University look to the widely beloved Shakespeare in the park.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to do it (the performance) outside because it’s new and fun,” Brown said. “I think this would be the show to do outside.”
Bradford said the message of the show is as timely as ever despite being written more than 400 years ago.
“My favorite thing about Shakespeare is that his work is still performed and his work is still done because it’s timeless, because it’s themes that, for as long as humanity goes on, we will never not face,” he said. “When you come to see ‘The Comedy of Errors,’ you’ll notice that the twins, me and Brandon, are very different. Brandon is a small little white kid, and here I am this 6-foot black guy and we’re twins.
“Michael’s idea was, it’s this concept of you don’t see the difference between the two twins, and I think that’s a theme that the world really needs to examine.”
Hallie Unruh, who plays Dromio of Syracuse, said her role helped her explore the more comedic side of acting since she normally plays more serious roles.
“It has been the most fun and the most freeing to just literally play,” she said. “It’s just having fun.”
The safety measures go beyond being outside — the performers also will be wearing clear face masks.
“We’re trying to keep students as safe as possible,” Kary said.
It also makes it safer for the audience, which has an opportunity to see a very relatable version of Shakespeare.
“It’s very fast and fun,” Brown said. “I don’t think we’ve ever done anything like this, so people should come check it out to experience it just for the sake of saying you were there when it happened.”
IF YOU GO
What: “The Comedy of Errors” by William Shakespeare.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 4
Where: Outdoors stage on the field on the outside of the COFAP building
Information: 602-639-8800 or [email protected]
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].