Up for an Emmy Award: UNCCA’s Much Ado About Nothing

by Mark Burger

Chalk up another accolade for UNC School of the Arts, as the UNC-TV broadcast of the School of Drama’s 2012 production of the Shakespeare classic Much Ado About Nothing received an Emmy Award nomination in the category of arts programming.

“It is thrilling news,” said UNC School of the Arts executive producer Katharine Laidlaw, in an official statement. “This nomination is testament to the remarkable talent of our students and faculty, not to mention the hard work we put in to capture the es sence of the live production in film. We are pleased we were able to share this unique production with viewers across the state through our partnership with UNC-TV.”

Added Shannon Vickery, UNC-TV’s director of production: “It highlights the wonderful programming being produced through our partnership, and it showcases the very talented students, faculty and staff of UNCSA.”

The UNC School of the Arts, or UNCSA production of Much Ado About Nothing was presented on campus March 29-April 7, 2012 and was broadcast statewide on UNC-TV on April 9, 2013.

The UNCSA Studio IV (senior class) production was directed by long-time faculty member Bob Francesconi (also assistant dean at the School of Drama) and featured scenic designs by John V. Bowhers, then a student at the university’s School of Design & Production. Bowhers was also the recipient of the 2012 W. Owen Parker Award from the US Institute for Theatre Technology, which is the highest award for a student scenic designer in the entire nation. The costumes were designed by Christine Turbitt, also a long-time UNCSA faculty member and director of the university’s costume design and technology program.

This production also marked another first, as it featured the American premiere of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s complete score — the first fully integrated production since Korngold’s music was outlawed by the Third Reich in 1933. Korngold, who was born in Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic) was a promising young composer for opera and orchestral music when he was forced to flee Europe because he was Jewish.

Emigrating to the United States, Korngold soon found his way to Hollywood and Warner Bros., where he became one of the studio’s preeminent film composers. He earned an Academy Award for his rousing score of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and earned subsequent, successive nominations for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Sea Hawk (1940).

A new edition of Korngold’s score has been prepared by the music-publishing house Schott in collaboration with noted conductor and former UNCSA chancellor John Mauceri, who conducted the UNCSA chamber orchestra (comprised of high school, college and graduate instrumentalists from UNCSA’s School of Music) for the production. The commercial recording of the score was released in April by Toccata Classics to favorable reviews.

Shakespeare penned Much Ado About Nothing in the late 16 th century, and it has endured as one of the Bard’s most beloved comedies. A frequent theater favorite because of its popularity and timeless romanticism, the story follows a pair of star-crossed lovers: Beatrice and Benedick, an older couple whose bantering masks an irresistible romantic attraction; and Claudio and Hero, a younger and more innocent couple whose relationship is threatened by suspicion and doubt. Despite a series of complications, some provided by the villainous and manipulative Don John and others by the bumbling Constable Dogberry, who has an unerring knack for getting in people’s way (including his own), all’s well that ends well — to borrow the title from another Shakespeare classic.

The cast of the UNCSA production included Jackie Robinson as Beatrice, Ari Itkin as Benedick and Jessica Richards as Hero. The filmed version was directed by David Stern, who also helmed the awardwinning televised production of UNCSA’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. The filmed version was funded by a grant from the AJ Fletcher Foundation in tandem with the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts and the William R. Kenan Jr. Fund for the Arts.

The regional Emmy Awards will be presented Jan. 25 from Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tenn. !