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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Groundling Society Makes Stage Debut with “Much Ado About Nothing” Read-Through

<ay, October 12th, the Carleton College theater season started with a whisper. Eleven members of the “Carleton Groundling Society,” Carleton’s premier Shakespeare appreciation organization, took to the Little Nourse Stage with a  readthrough production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Before the show began, some cast members asked if lines should be delivered standing. “Let’s just do this sitting down,” Mairead Koehler ‘17, president of the Carleton Groundling Society, responded. “As you can see, this is extremely low key.”

Koehler ‘17 starred in the show as Benedict. Renowned Carleton actor Sam Braslow ‘15 played beside her as Beatrice, while Joss Olson ‘15 perched across stage as the infamous Don John. Despite such a strong old guard, the youthful enthusiasm of the season shone through; seven of the 11 member cast were freshmen.

The cast was variously-hatted throughout the performance, switching from bowler hats to baseball caps to mark character changes. Some cast members sported Shakespeare t-shirts, others flower print boots. Though costuming remained unformalized, the culturally theatrical garb of the cat, combined with the dingy
odors of Little Nourse, invited the five person audience to lavish in the subtleties of the broader theater community.

Production remained similarly minimal beyond costuming. Sound design was limited to Braslow’s occasional trips to the booth for musical interludes and goofy soundboard effects. Without costuming or mise en
scene, the view of the script defined the audience’s visual experience (and indeed the cast’s as well).

Unburdened with rehearsal, discovery and experimentation gilded the production. Effects and cast members shifted; most members of the audience delivered a line or two during the production.

Such was not the only audiencecast interaction; oft during the show, Braslow would hop off stage to recover the dwindling box of Cheddar Bunnies he had generously distributed to the audience.

In preparation for Sunday’s performance, Koehler raided Gould Library for copies of Much Ado; the reviewer read from a book published in 1904 by Ginn & Company. Countless Beatrices had modified the copy, adding or omitting lines or mysteriously bracketing passages.

Such whispers of history defined the performance; with little artistic rendering, we were left each to imagine our own stagings, the future actors of whom our feeble and stumbling voices could be past selves. Certainly the fanaticism of the  Groundling Society was played out, as well, for no artist’s work was so present as
the bard’s himself.

Admittedly for the passionate, the event benefited greatly from its interactivity. Indeed, in sampling and trading the play’s contents in such a
preliminary manner, the cast and audience were able to mimic the stage at which many other shows stood this weekend; from ETB oddities to “The Winter’s Tale.”

This readthrough is but the tip of the iceberg for the Carleton Groundling Society. Founded last spring, the Groundling Society is perhaps best known for filling  mailboxes with inspiration quotes during last spring’s exam period. Koehler, who worked at a Shakespeare company this company teaching ten-twelve year-old children, is excited to continue to promote Shakespeare awareness on campus.

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