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High school costume designer makes history with start-to-finish creations for 'Much Ado About Nothing'

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Averyl Hartje playing Beatrice, left, and Samantha Katz playing Hero, rehearse for the Wilsonville High performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'At the height of summer, with the start of school still weeks away, Wilsonville High School senior Peyton Butler had already begun designing costumes for WHS's winter theater production, "Much Ado About Nothing."

Butler is the first student at WHS to complete the entire costume design process for a show from start to finish, from sketching the designs to piecing them all together.

"Much Ado About Nothing" opens at WHS Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

Butler has been involved with theater at WHS since her sophomore year, but this is her first-time designing costumes for a show.

The hardest part of designing the costumes for the production was staying true to the time period, Butler said. WHS's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" is set in 1919, just after World War I. Butler spent a lot of time at the library researching the era to make sure she got the wardrobe just right.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Actors rehearse for the Wilsonville High performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'

In addition to designing the costumes, Butler is acting in the show too.

"It's been fun to design costumes and be an actor at the same time," she said.

To set "Much Ado About Nothing," written by Shakespeare in 1598, in the middle of the twentieth century is not altogether uncommon. Because his stories are so timeless, directors can set their productions of Shakespeare classics almost anywhere in history.

WHS Director John Fitzgerald chose this particular moment in history because, "World War I was incredibly tragic, but was followed, at least for a while, by a period of optimism. This seems to match the mood of the play."

The play's four leading actors agreed that Shakespeare's plays work so well in any given time period because he wrote them for the stage. He meant for directors and actors to give his plays their own take.

"There is no way to perform it where Shakespeare would say 'no, you're doing it wrong,' so there is no way to stray from the text," said junior Averyl Hartje, who plays the leading role of Beatrice, said.

Shakespeare's lack of stage directions and brief descriptions invite actors to interpret the play in their own way.

"Shakespeare leaves so much to the actor. You read plays now and there are stage directions and all these different descriptions, whereas Shakespeare, he has three words for his description and rarely has stage directions if any," said senior Nate Rasmussen, who plays opposite Hartje as Benedict.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Casey Young playing Claudio, center, and Nate Rasmussen playing Benedick, rehearse for the Wilsonville High performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'

"Much Ado About Nothing," a dramatic romantic comedy, focuses on the relationship between the argumentative and witty Beatrice and Benedict. The play also follows the more traditional couple, Hero and Claudio, played by juniors Samantha Katz and Casey Young.

Young, Katz, Rasmussen and Hartje agreed that the story is very appropriate for people their own age.

"The characters are really relatable to teenagers and what they're going through," Hartje said.

While "Much Ado About Nothing" resonates especially well with high schoolers, it has something for everyone.

"There is all kinds of humor, there is slapstick, and there are moments that are 'ha ha' funny," Katz said. "It's also very charming."

While it is a comedy, "There is definitely a dark side to the story," Fitzgerald said.

The play is also suited for people with a wide range of Shakespeare experience.

"Out of all of Shakespeare's plays, this is a pretty easy one to follow. It's simple. It's one of his more basic shows. But if you're a fan of Shakespeare, as simple as it is, there is still a lot to think about," Young said. "Each scene connects to another scene in some way and there all of these different pieces to follow so it is a lot to think about. But if you've never seen Shakespeare or don't really like Shakespeare and are just coming to see the show, then it's still for you."

After months of rehearsal, the cast is eager to finally put all of their hard work together before an audience.

"Much Ado About Nothing" runs Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-March 2 at 7 p.m. in the WHS Auditorium. Tickets are available online at and cost $10 for adults and $8 for students.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nate Rasmussen playing Benedick, left, and Averyl Hartje playing Beatrice, rehearse for the Wilsonville High performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'

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