Queer Shakespeare: Beatrice and Benedick retells "Much Ado"

    Last year, Wave brought to Northwestern R&J, a queer version of the timeless Shakespearean love story. This year, Lovers and Madmen brings the queering of Much Ado About Nothing – a lesser-known Shakespeare work.

    While taking her Shakespeare final last quarter, Communication freshman Anna Cohen wondered: “What if Benedick was a woman?” From there, she pitched her idea to Lovers and Madmen, a theater board focused on classical productions, for their winter special event. Over winter break, Cohen finally heard that the board had chosen her idea. Now, as the director of Beatrice and Benedick, she maintains that "this is how Shakespeare intended it."

    The production still uses the original Shakespearean script, but casts both Benedick and Don John as women. The actors must rely on nuance and stage play to portray the slightly different themes that manifest in this production. Cohen believes that “What does it mean to perform manhood/masculinity versus what does it mean to perform womanhood?” is one of the central questions of the play.

    In addition to the gender swaps, a major difference in this reinterpretation is simply cuts for time. For example, the original play has 24 characters and this production has only 11.

    “Casting 24 people is not only making a five-act show super duper long … but requires 24 free theater people who are not committed to other things, which is damn near impossible here,” Cohen said.

    Two of the available theater people who decided to work on the show are Communication freshmen Sophie Civetta and Quinn Stiefbold, who play Beatrice and Benedick, respectively.

    Like many members of the cast and crew, Civetta had interest in Much Ado About Nothing before she heard of Cohen’s production. It was a play she had always enjoyed, as it holds special significance for her.

    “My parents also met in college doing this show,” she said, “and it’s my first show here.”

    Steifold, however, had a slightly different motivation for her involvement.

    “I haven’t been able to be involved in any fun gay productions, and I want to play someone that’s like me,” she said. “When I found out Anna was doing this, I was like I have to audition. I can’t not audition for this. This is an amazing opportunity. It’s Shakespeare, I love Shakespeare. It’s gay, I love gay. I need to do it.”

    If you want your weekend to be full of sassy lesbians and traditional Shakespearean drama, Beatrice and Benedick won't let you down. It's also a good way to be introduced to Shakespeare, according to Civetta.

    “It’s basically a bunch of friends trying to get their other friends in relationships, which is something in college I feel like happens a lot," she said. "I mean, while Macbeth is great and stuff, we can’t really relate to, ‘I’m the king and I wanna stay king.’”

    Beatrice and Benedickruns on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 10, at 10:30 p.m., at Lutkin Hall. Entry is free.


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