“Much Ado About Nothing.” Gilbert High School’s theater group

Members of Gilbert High School’s theater group rehearse for this week’s production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

No one can ever accuse students in Gilbert High School’s Theatre Ensemble of approaching their craft casually.

For their new school year debut, the young thespians are preparing to present William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 26-28, at the school, 1101 E. Elliot Road, Gilbert. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

Shakespeare’s language can be daunting in an era of sound bites and Twitter posts, but school Theater Director Dr. Angela Hines said her cast is up to the challenge.

Indeed, Hines admitted, “I picked this play because I wanted to challenge my students with a Shakespeare piece.”

“Shakespeare can be difficult to understand and we focus on making the story relatable for not only the actors and crew but also for our audience,” said Hines, who has been at Gilbert High for six years.

“Translating the language was definitely a challenge for the actors, and connecting with the characters they are portraying. Making sure the audience understands the subtext and can follow the story-lines was also a challenge for the actors.”

Fortunately for the students and their audience, they’re in the hands of a veteran practitioner of stagecraft.

A director for 10 years and performer for the last 25, Hines was in the theater group throughout her high school days in Glendale.

She majored in theater at Arizona State University with an emphasis on directing and acting and has her masters and doctorate in theater education.

One of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedies, “Ado” is the story of two intertwined love affairs that sometimes has been compared to the romantic comedy classics of the 1930s that starred the likes of Carry Grant and Clark Gable.

Some Shakespeare experts have explained that “nothing” in the title is deliberately ambiguous and was pronounced like “noting” in Shakespeare’s time.

“Noting” back then referred to eavesdropping, around which much of the comedy revolves.

“One of our English teachers, Mrs. Robin Dodder introduced the script to me over the summer and I fell in love with the script,” Hines said.

While Hines said the language has been a bit daunting, she added that “the students find a connection to the situations that the characters are going through.  

“We find that low comedy and high comedy still have a place and Shakespeare’s humor is still funny and relevant today,” she added.

Moreover, Hines explained, the play “is about rumors and misunderstandings – something my students really connect with. Being teenagers, they really relate to what the characters are going through.”

Language isn’t the only challenge for a high school troupe that takes on The Bard.

The sets and costumes also are elaborate, echoing the 16th-century medieval Italian palace where the action takes place.

And the costumes in Gilbert High’s presentation are elaborate. “Some costumes were made, some were from our closet from past donations and constructions and some were rented,” Hines said.

The set is a box set construction, with a second-story balcony. 

“We have built a false proscenium with scenic paint design,” Hines said. “Our tech crew has been hard at work on this set since the start of rehearsal in August.”

Hines promises that audiences will enjoy the show – and appreciate the effort the young thespians put into it.

“Audiences will be transported to Messina, Italy through Renaissance costumes, classical Italian set design, elegant waltz dancing, and swashbuckling sword fights,” she boasted. 

“Our actors transform the stage to take the audience on an exploration of love and marriage, friendship and honor, in this brilliant war of words in Bard’s classic tale.”

“Much Ado’s” assistant director is Adara Knelange; the dramaturg is Robin Dodder; stage manager is Krista Gerhauser and her assistants are Tori Richards and Damian Rood.