UWF in the Community

New Shakespeare theatre company at UWF offers words of comfort

Pensacola theater-goers greeted the news of Shakespeare coming to town like a tall glass of cool water on a hot August day.

“The best comment I’ve heard was from someone who e-mailed and simply said, ‘What took you so long?!’said Kevin Kern, the Pensacola Shakespeare Company’s artistic director and UWF assistant professor of theater.

The Pensacola Shakespeare Company is preparing to stage its first production, “Much Ado About Nothing,” at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Art Mainstage Theatre Aug. 12 through 14 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. The comedy features two couples and several recurring themes from other Shakespearian comedies – debates about love, people in disguises and accusations of infidelity. Next up, the company will present “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” – a fast, funny look at the playwright’s most famous works – Aug. 19 through 21 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 22 and 2 p.m. also in the Mainstage Theatre. Tickets prices for all shows are $25 general admission and $20 for students, seniors and the military.

With Pensacola’s personality in mind, “Much Ado About Nothing” was an obvious choice.

“‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is the story of men coming home from a war…what better way to celebrate the rich military history of this town than to stage ‘Much Ado’ with Navy men coming home from World War II?” Kern asked. “We want Pensacola to feel ownership of this theater – it belongs to the town.”

The UWF professor believes Shakespeare has something to offer area residents.

“It’s more important now than ever to find ways to boost tourism in the Pensacola area,” he said. “The Alabama Shakespeare Festival welcomes over 300,000 patrons a year to Montgomery. When they come, they don’t just see theater; they stay in local hotels, shop in local stores and eat in local restaurants. We aim to do the same thing for Pensacola – give people just one more reason to visit our town,” he said.

And a good laugh is always welcome inside the theater, no matter what may be going on outside. Both shows promise to be fun, fast-paced and maybe a little silly (think man in blond wig wearing a dress, poorly). In fact, Kern predicted that one actor in particular will have everybody giggling in their seats.

In “Much Ado About Nothing,” Dogberry, played by Thom Hofrichter, will delight audiences. Thom is an actor/director from the Midwest with great comic timing and his country bumpkin sheriff will have the audience in stitches.” Hofrichter is managing artistic director of First Presbyterian Theater in Fort Wayne, Ind., adjunct professor at Huntington University and also teaches in the Communications Department at Indiana University-Purdue at Fort Wayne.

Participating actors, all Shakespeare veterans, include: Gary Lamb, artistic director for the Crown City Theatre Company in Pasadena, Calif.; Laura Beth Calcote, (“Left of Center”) a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy; Anthony Reimer (“Chasing Zero,” “Rescue Me”); Adam Simpson, chairman of the Theatre Department at Lynn University; and several UWF Theatre students and graduates, such as Meagan Parker, Nathan Simmons, Christopher Sanders, Daniel Emerson, Grace Thompson and Mark Duggar.

This production of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” will include current names in the news just as the original production mentioned Sally Jesse Raphael and Newt Gingrich. Kern mentioned certain MTV reality shows and a few politicians as possible targets. The cast of three includes Reimer, Lamb and Kern.

For more information, visit pensacolashakespeare.org or call (850) 439-2289.

By Susie Forrester, University Communications