Director Domenick Scudera Has No Time to Worry
Director Domenick Scudera was all smiles in his cool commando in his grey kilt ensemble for the opening of his madcap musical production of "Much Ado About Nothing" at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.
"Well, in my mind, if you are not comfortable on opening night, then you've done something wrong," he said plopping down in his seat, "The most hectic time for me is during tech. I get to fix what wasn't working and make the needed adjustments.
"So now I can just let it live onstage. Plus this morning, my brain was fried, so no time for nerves," Scudera joked.
Leading up to "Much Ado's" opening, he was also directing Jane Wagner's "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" at Ursinus College, where Scudera teaches theater and design. In the midst of it, he even posted a FB picture of himself in sleepy close-up with his two dogs, Cyrus and Festus; but the director definitely had the doggiest mug. (Cyrus, by the way, was the subject of a well-received theater piece "Festus The Three-Legged Wonder Dog," based on the experiences of the dog and Scudera as a certified therapy team visiting area hospitals.)
"I've been running back and forth between the two productions. I was teaching all morning, then rehearsing 'Signs,' then driving into the city and to rehearse here all day, then go back for night sessions at the college. It got crazy."
Scudera also has a popular column on Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section. But he didn’t remember that he had dashed off a commentary the week the Supreme Court heard the marriage equality cases. It was about how he was tired of waiting to marry Brian Strachen, his partner and lover of 18 years while the Supreme Court makes up its mind.
"Brian’s busier than I am, actually, he designed the costumes for this show, while he was also doing three other productions," Scudera noted. The couple has performed together, co-written plays and raised funds for many area gay organizations as fabulous drag divas Thunder Showers (Brian) and Summer Clearance (Dom).
On this night though, Scudera was just another audience member for "Much Ado..." and was laughing along with the rest of us at the high dose of physical comedy perpetrated by the ’Much Ado...’ cast. Most of the actors are in rep for the next month with PST director Carmen Kahn’s production of ’Othello,’ starring Forest McClendon and J. Hernandez. PST is one of the few companies that performs classic repertory theater.
"It’s a lot of work for them, but they like the contrast of the heaviness of ’Othello’ and they are able to stretch completely different acting muscles with ’Much Ado...’ I love working on the comedies. Especially when they are working on another heavier play. The actors are having fun and letting loose, there is so much joy in...that energy," Scudera said just as the lights dim.
A drastic turn
’Much Ado...’ is one of the comedies that takes a drastic dramatic turn in the second act when the nobleman shuns Hero, his daughter, because he thinks she is canoodling with other men before her wedding. This creates a balancing act for Scudera, who must shift the emphasis into something more dramatic without diminishing the play’s more comedic elements, which utilize physical comedy right out of a 1930s screwball comedy.
He’s also using live music to complement the tonal shifts. To that end, composer actor Pat Lamborn, who plays the Friar/musician with bass and guitar, is on hand to underscore the dialogue. Eventually all of the actors end up playing instruments in the show.
Along with Kahn, Scudera is versatile and inventive in reshaping Shakespearean plays for contemporary audiences. He has seven Bardian comedies to his credit, including the hilarious 90-minute "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," made famous by the Reduced Shakespeare Company that has gone on to become a staple with smaller theaters.
Scudera also recently published a HuffPost story called "A Caveman Evolution," which tells the story of two cavemen that fall in love and are ostracized by their clan, as a way of making a contemporary fable about marriage equality. Earlier in his career, Scudera was a political cartoonist for the Philadelphia Gay News, which has led to speculation that his gay cavemen -- Ook and Zowie - may turn up in an illustrated book or animated movie, giving the already busy Scudera even more to do.
"Much Ado About Nothing" is in repertory with "Othello" at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre through May 18. For performances times and other events check the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre website or call 215.296.8001for more details.