First theater performance in more than 20 months on tap at Wood-Mar Auditorium

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Benedict, played by Johnathan Billington, and Beatrix, comprised by Lydia Crist, are the two primary candidates in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing.' The GFU troupe will begin performing the classic farce on Thursday.

After nearly two years of uncertainty and limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Fox University theater department is returning to Wood-Mar Auditorium for live performances.

Student actors will comprise the Shakespeare comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 28-31, with limited seating available for the public to come and share in the joy of live performances.

Professor of theater, Rhett Luedtke, will direct the show, which marks the first performance in the auditorium and in front of a live audience for GFU students since February 2020. Rehearsals are underway for the opening on Thursday.

"We are eight days away from opening, so we're in a good place," Luedtke said on Oct. 13. "We will tidy some things up over the next few days, add in some of the technical elements over the weekend, and dress rehearsals will happen starting on Monday. We're right on track for our opening Thursday night.

"In some respects, it's not too much different than what we've done in the past, except actors are masked the entire rehearsal process. We will remove the actors' masks for the first time during dress rehearsals, which will be the first time in almost 20 months that I've seen my actors' set faces. I wonder if taking off the masks will sharpen their listening as actors, because so far we've been hearing the language through a layer of fabric."

All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. except for the Halloween performance, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets can be purchased at and are $14 for general admission, $12 for seniors and GFU alumni, and $8 for students and children under 12.

All attendees must be masked, and seats will be socially distanced by GFU officials. Those who can't attend the performance can opt for the digital option, which can be purchased online and will live stream on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.

"The play, co-sponsored by the university's English department, tells the story of Don Pedro, Benedict, Claudio and their men who, on their way home from the wars, stop for a respite at Leonato's home in Messina," a release from GFU said. "There, Claudio falls in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero, while Benedict continually gets into verbal spats with Hero's cousin, Beatrice.

"In order to pass the time before Hero and Claudio get married, the entire villa contrives to trick Benedict and Beatrice into falling in love with each other, too. Unfortunately, Don Pedro's villainous sibling has other plans. Will love prevail or will chaos descend on the community … or both?"

The GFU theater department put on three performances during the pandemic, but none of them were typical. The first was a digital production of "Silent Sky," the second was a radio performance of "A Christmas Carol," and the most recent was a traveling outdoor performance on campus last spring.

Luedtke emphasized the importance of supporting the arts after such a long layoff from live performances.

"We live in a digital age where the vast majority of our entertainment is digital," Luedtke said. "What makes the performing arts unique and separate from digital media is the requirement for a performer and listener to be together at the same time. That allows us to experience our collective humanity together in this space. That is a unique thing and something that is not well-supported in the age of digital media. But I think there is something to be said for the value of being in the same space with people and sharing an experience like that together."

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