About 150 University of Michigan community members, Ann Arbor residents and Shakespeare enthusiasts gathered in Nichols Arboretum Thursday night for the opening night of Shakespeare in the Arb. This year’s show, “Much Ado About Nothing,” ran for about two and a half hours as audience members moved throughout the Arb for an immersive theater experience. 

Rob Sulewski, one of this year’s three directors, began the performance by giving opening remarks to the audience. Sulewski said audience members should be prepared to move around as the performance progresses.

“Special greetings to all of you who are here for the first time,” Sulewski said. “You veterans will know that we wander through the Arb; not through the entire Arb, mind you, but various places along the way. So not every scene will be here in this place.”

During his remarks, Sulewski also dedicated the performance to Katherine Mendeloff, former U-M Residential College drama lecturer and founder of Shakespeare in the Arb. Mendeloff died this April from pancreatic cancer but was still involved in the planning process for this year’s production. 

“We are dedicating this year’s production to the founding director of Shakespeare in the Arb: Kate Mendeloff, who founded Shakespeare in the Arb in the year 2000,” Sulewski said. “Kate was involved primarily as a director in every production and she was also involved in the preparation of our production this year. Sadly, Kate passed away this past April, but I know that she would be delighted to see all of you here to see our show tonight.”

The production, which will run for another three weekends, features a cast of student and adult actors who work together to put on the show. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Carol Gray, another director of the show, said she left it to the actors to help bring the show to life.

“We had a really strong vision for the show, which is that these are characters who are living in an incredibly patriarchal society and there are severe consequences when people step outside of the bounds of that,” Gray said. “We have that really strong vision going into it, but the work that goes into it really comes from the actors.”

Graham Atkin, the show’s third director, told The Daily he has enjoyed seeing the show come to life alongside the trees and flowers in the Arb.

“When we start this process, the whole Arb is barren,” Atkin said. “Nothing is in bloom. And in that short month of work everything changes and blossoms and so too does our performance and actors and it’s just a fabulous adventure to go on and on and see the growth throughout the process.”

Gray said Shakespeare in the Arb has something for everyone, from the most sophisticated Shakespeare fans to those who just want to spend some time outside.

“This is a play that has been performed for hundreds of years, it’s a story that’s endured,” Gray said. “It’s an incredible story. It’s a hilarious story. It’s a devastating story. So there’s a little bit of something for everyone. If they want to see something serious, that’s here. If they want to see some music and some comedy, that’s here. If they want to see the beauty of the natural world, that’s here … This is a way to see the Arb in a new way: as a backdrop to these incredible performances.”

Summer Managing News Editor Mary Corey can be reached at mcorey@umich.edu.