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Rocking the Bard

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When actor/director Irene Crist decided to set her production of Much Ado About Nothing in the 1960s, she turned to an unlikely source for help: her son, Bennett Foster. Foster isn't old enough to remember the flower-power decade, but his gently psychedelic art-rock band the Barbaras have been mightily influenced by sonic architects such as Brian Wilson and Phil Spector who helped define the music of that era. Foster's sweet, head-friendly reinvention of Much Ado's sonnet "Sigh No More, Ladies" even manages to make Shakespeare's archaic "Hey nonny nonnies" sound at least as mid-20th-century modern as a "shoo bop" or "Doo run ron."

Crist was raised on Shakespeare, learning one of Ariel's monologues from The Tempest at age 11 while studying with an acting coach from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She chose to set her production of Much Ado, an archetypical battle of the sexes, in the '60s because, "Women were just starting to find their voices." Crist describes the play variously as touching, hilarious, silly, sophisticated, and moving. "The iconic moments of the late '60s are also all of those things," she says.

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