Hibernian Hall hosts unconventional Shakespeare troupe in ‘Much Ado’

In fall 2006, the Actors Shakespeare Project (ASP) wowed critics and audiences alike with its switcheroo Hamlet at the Strand Theater. The troupe, known for its inventive staging often in unconventional venues, put the audience onstage and used the house as part of the acting space.

This week, nearly three years later, ASP returns to the neighborhoods with another innovative production, this time of a comedy, and the company is inviting all Dorchester and Roxbury residents to see the show at a 50 percent discount.

Bobbie Steinbach (as Margaret), Kami Rushell Smith (Hero) & Paula Plum (as Beatrice) in the Actor Shakespeare Project’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”Bobbie Steinbach (as Margaret), Kami Rushell Smith (Hero) & Paula Plum (as Beatrice) in the Actor Shakespeare Project’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

Hibernian Hall, now home to the Roxbury Center for the Arts, had a long history a dance and function hall. ASP Artistic Director Benjamin Evett, who is directing Much Ado about Nothing, immediately connected the Hall’s festive history with the script of Much Ado, which brims with celebrations, starting with a welcome home gathering and ending with a double wedding.

The production will be mounted in the round with the audience on all sides; some lucky playgoers will sit in the playing area at cabaret tables next to actors, similarly seated. This clever arrangement emphasizes the motifs of eavesdropping and snooping which run throughout the play.

As usual, ASP production features a multiracial ensemble, though the big casting news is that Evett has paired the husband and wife team of Richard Snee and Paula Plum in the lead roles of Benedict and Beatrice. Though each is a sought after comic actor, the duo very rarely gets to perform together, so their ASP appearance is quite a coup.

As part of its community outreach, the socially conscious company is partnering with various local institutions including Boston Day & Evening Academy, Uphams Corner Charter School and the Orchard Gardens School, as well Eliot Treatment Center, a DYS (Department of Youth Services) facility for boys. ASP is working with Close to Home, an organization that trains teens to talk to teens about domestic violence, as well as DOT Art (Dorchester Community Center for the Visual Arts), whose teachers are working with local students making visual pieces about Shakespeare’s plays.

All of these organizations will participate in training and workshops with ASP, use ASP lesson plans, attend performances and post show discussions and explore the plays through performance and art.

For more information log on to actorsshakespeareproject.org.  When ordering tickets on-line enter the code “hibrox” for the half-off discount for any performance.

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