The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University presents “Much Ado About Shakespeare in Contemporary America”

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University presents “Much Ado About Shakespeare in Contemporary America” on Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Symposium is a collaborative project between Southern Oregon University’s new ShakespeareAMERICA Institute and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), supported in part by the Oregon Community Foundation. The Symposium includes viewing of the film “Much Ado About Nothing” by Joss Whedon at the Ashland Varsity Theatre, panel discussions and a multimedia performance by SOU students.
The Symposium kicks off Saturday morning at the Varsity Theater with a talk by film critic Steve Vineberg on the subject of “Hollywood’s Debt to Shakespeare,” which will set up a viewing and discussion of Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Vineberg is a Professor of Theatre at the College of the Holy Cross who has authored three books. His reviews and articles have appeared in multiple publications, including The New York Times.
Afternoon events shift to the Meese Auditorium in the SOU Art Building. The first features a panel discussion focused on OSF’s current production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Commentary will center on the mistreatment of Hero, the young woman unjustly denounced as unchaste at her own wedding. Panelists include Lydia Garcia, OSF’s literary associate and production dramaturg for “Much Ado About Nothing;” Leah Anderson, who plays Hero in the same production:  and feminist Shakespeare scholar Evelyn Gajowski, Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The final event in the Symposium will be “An Ill Word,” a multimedia performance written and directed by SOU Theatre students in collaboration with SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program. A modern adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing,” the piece sets the classic romance in Hollywood celebrity culture in the age of the Internet. “Shakespeare’s play centers on the stories people tell about love and how those stories can build relationships or destroy them,” said Liz Eckhart, instructor in Shakespeare Studies and popular culture and the faculty advisor of the performance. “This adaptation shows how the same dynamics play out in the treacherous world of tabloid journalism and social media. Today, tabloids and clickbait websites obsess over the real or imagined private lives of celebrities, and hackers steal intimate photos and publish them online. These spectacles lead us to ask, how do “Much Ado”’s central issues of love and shaming play out in today’s volatile social media culture?”
Shanti Ryle, a Bachelor of Fine Arts student in Theatre, wrote “An Ill Word.” She is currently understudying the role of Hero in the OSF production this season and is a member of the ensemble in “Head Over Heels.” The performance is directed by senior Theatre student Natalia F. Regalia-Affinito. Her recent credits include assistant director and director in the SOU Theatre program and at Western Washington Center for the Arts.
The new ShakespeareAMERICA Institute at Southern Oregon University is dedicated to the investigation of Shakespeare’s place in contemporary American culture. For more information, call 541-552-6333.
Registration is $25 and includes a catered box lunch. A discounted fee of $10 is available for university and high school students. Registration deadline is Thursday, April 30. Register online at, by calling 541-552-6348 or visiting the SOU Performing Arts Box Office, located in the SOU Music Recital Hall lobby. Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A professional development credit is available for teachers for $70 for one credit (includes registration fee and lunch). To register for the CEU, call 541-552-6333.
About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit
Photo: Steve Vinberg, Professor of Theatre at the College of the Holy Cross