While students may cringe at the thought of the dreaded iambic pentameter, the upcoming University studio production of Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” addresses the exciting and contemporary issues of gender roles and sexuality.

“All’s Well That Ends Well”

Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Walgreen Drama Center
Tickets from $9

This Thursday through Sunday, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s performance will feature the talents of Musical Theater students under the guidance of director and assistant professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance Malcolm Tulip.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” explores complicated issues concerning marriage and love.

“If you had to say what the play is about, it might be about … love and marriage — are they compatible?” Tulip said. “And then as soon as you ask that question then all the rest starts to tumble around it: the idea of marriage as a contract, not as a realization or the consummation of love, but as something that has to do with other business transactions.”

“Social and gender roles are definitely a predominant theme in the show and … how the class dominates the sexuality, how men treat the women and how they basically objectify women,” said Tyler Jones, a Musical Theater junior who will play Bertram, a leading role.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” is one of the few studio productions conducted by the Department of Musical Theater each year. Unlike a full production like last October’s “Evita,” a studio production often operates on a lower budget but allows more room for experimentation.

Studio productions are one of the opportunities offered to Musical Theater students who choose to participate outside of class.

“The focus in a studio rather than a full production is really on the process,” Tulip said. “It’s on the acting and on the development of character.”

The absence of Shakespeare in recent studio productions led Tulip to choose “All’s Well That Ends Well.” Both Tulip and the students were attracted to the freedom of undertaking this complex and rarely performed play.

“I think it’s interesting because it’s not very clear whether it’s a comedy or tragedy,” said Laura Reed, a Musical Theater sophomore, who will be playing Helena, one of the leading roles.

“We had a lot of choices to make about the characters. A lot of it was up to us to discover for ourselves and what we wanted the production to be, which … was a lot of fun,” she added.

“It’s not a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘As You Like It.’ It is something that was unfamiliar to us,” said Cody Davis, a Musical Theater junior, who will be playing the King. “And you … get to create more of your own art rather than thinking of the past and what you have seen.”

In addition to the many possibilities in characters, “All’s Well That Ends Well” explores complicated issues concerning marriage and love.

Though Tulip intends to keep the production as close to the original play as possible — only cutting one line and changing 12 words — the cast and crew changed the time period from the 1600s to a more modern setting in the 1950s.

“I had a desire to see it in something more modern so the audience isn’t focusing on the historical side of it,” Tulip said. “And at the same time, I didn’t want to … get so hung up on the ‘50s that we forget what the play is about. So the truthful answer is that the ‘50s is there for a modern sensibility, slightly more old-fashioned than now.”

Reed, Jones and Davis all expressed appreciation in working with Tulip, a regular director in the department’s studio productions since 2001.

“In all honesty, I love working with (Tulip) because he’s able to get such a natural way out of anyone, in a way that makes it seem like they aren’t doing a contrived performance,” Jones said. “He’s just really gifted at getting people to act at their full potential.”

Under the direction of Tulip, along with the dedication of the cast, this adaption of “All’s Well That Ends Well” speaks to the enduring complexities of human nature and love without clouding the plot with a dated setting.

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