He Said/She Said: Talking to the Stars of Tennessee Shakespeare’s “Much Ado”

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Beatrice and Benedick are one of Shakespeare's greatest couples and the Tennessee Shakespeare Company reunites them when Much Ado About Nothing opens this weekend in Dixon Gallery & Gardens’ Winegardner Auditorium.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, director Dan McCleary has given his production an especially festive air. For a taste of what's in store I talked briefly with Much Ado's stars Tony Molina, Jr. (Benedick) and Carey Urban (Beatrice).

HE SAID
Tony Molina, Jr. - TN SHAKESPEARE
  • TN Shakespeare
  • Tony Molina, Jr.
Intermission Impossible: There are a handful of really great couples in Shakespeare and Beatrice and Benedick have to be close to the top.

Tony Molina, Jr: Benedick is certainly one of the wisest characters I’ve ever played. And one of the funniest. They have this fiery and passionate relationship that kind of reminds me of my grandparents. They were married for 50 years, and it was easy sometimes to wonder why. Because they knew how to get under each other’s skin. And they knew each other so well they knew exactly what to say. And it was funny because they’d argue for hours sometimes. And then, at the end of the night, granny would still sit on grandpa’s lap, and kiss him, and they’d hug each other. I wish I’d had one relationship like that in my life. And hopefully, I will have, someday.


It can be such a fun show.


And it’s a lot of fun working with Carey too.


She was easily the best Juliet I’ve ever seen, and at this point I’ve lost count.


She’s so passionate and fiery. Skilled, funny— a great acting partner.


I think when people think of Benedick they think of his wit before his wisdom. But you brought up his wisdom, tell me about that.


The wisdom— He puts things into perspective, simply. The way people deal with things. He talks about being a confirmed bachelor who’ll never marry. At the same time he’s in love with Beatrice. That’s what people do. They hide their feelings by creating this mask. And Benedick, very wisely, describes that mask. And when he comes to be in love, the way he expresses it, is from the heart, and the words are really eloquent.


I understand this show has a festive atmosphere — appropriate for the holidays. Can you tell me a little bit about the production?


The whole thing is set at a party. The audience members are guests. They get to hear all the conversations and all the relationships, and all the things that are happening at the party. There are tuxedos and masks. And music. I won’t say it’s holiday music, but it’s music of celebration. It’s a state of mind for us, and we try to include the audience.


SHE SAID
Carey Urban - TN SHAKESPEARE
  • TN Shakespeare
  • Carey Urban
Intermission Impossible: So, Carey, this isn’t your first Much Ado, is it?


Carey Urban: I did another production in New York 10-years ago and played three characters, none of which are the characters I play in this one.


Do you like returning to a show?


It’s wonderful getting to play Beatrice. When Dan announced the season I wrote him and said, “Beatrice is on my bucket list. When I did Much Ado 10-years ago I didn’t even dream of being considered for Beatrice. But I knew I wanted to play the role some day.


Beatrice is one of the great roles. That’s not intimidating. What does it even mean, “the great roles.”


I wanted to play Juliet since I was a little girl.


You were my favorite Juliet ever. And I’ve seen that show more times than I can count.


When I was little I didn’t even know that much about the role. I just knew the legend. Then you get older and learn more about the canon. And things you want to do get added because something grabs you emotionally. Maybe you’ve seen somebody else play a part and it really spoke to you. Or like Juliet, there’s a legend or a mystique to it. One of the great rewards is how they challenge you, and you grow as an actor. They’re usually very demanding.


Audiences love all the banter between Beatrice and Benedick..


Something— obviously a lot of humor in the dialogue. But people recognize aspects of themselves or people they’ve known in these characters.


Right. Is it the humor that attracted you, or something else?


That aspect isn’t what most drew me to the role. What made me hungry to play her was she’s really very modern in her worldview. Even for today. There’s a really important scene where she says something about gender inequality that really hit home for me. This woman has some things to say that I want the opportunity to say.


I understand the show is something of a holiday party. Can you tell me a little about the production?


It has a very celebratory air, in keeping with the play as written. It’s mainly about love and all the crazy, brave, and potentially even insane and cruel things that love inspires or compels us to do. It begins with men coming home from a battle in which they’ve been victorious, and that sets off a season of parties, and masked balls, and courting.

Much Ado About Nothing
is at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens through December 18

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