Saturday, August 24

‘Verona’ mixes language, music


‘Verona’ mixes language, music

By Jeana Blackman

With everything that is negative in the world, it’s always nice
to have an opportunity to just sit back, relax and enjoy life once
again.

Master of Fine Arts Director Kent Gash plans to give you just
such an opportunity with the musical version of "Two Gentlemen of
Verona." This production is the third one of the UCLA mainstage
season and it combines some of Shakespeare’s language with modern
music and dance.

Gash wanted to create something that makes you forget the day to
day drudgery and enjoy life.

"I want people to feel when it’s over that their hearts have
been lifted," Gash says in a relaxed afternoon interview. And
through a somtimes imposing exterior, a bit of the romantic peeps
out.

"This play celebrates all that can be wonderful," Gash says and
then adds, "It’s about love." Celebration and love seem to be the
main themes of the play, but there’s more to it than that.

"Everything that’s sort of great about musical theater … is
potentially in this show," Gash said. And having the elements of
dance and music is important to him.

"I’m born and raised on musical theater, but it’s an art form
that’s really dying out," he says. But by taking the risk of doing
something that has become rarer, he hopes to inspire others to do
the same.

"If the show does well, then hopefully it’ll be a risk that a
lot of people will want to start taking more and more," Gash says.
Although this may sound idealistic, Gash is living proof it can
happen.

"’Two Gents’ was the first Broadway show I ever saw and it had
an enormous effect on me," Gash says.

This was a major reason why he chose this particular music for
his mainstage project. But because this musical has lost some of
its early popularity, some people have questioned whether or not
the material is still relevant. And Gash has some pretty strong
feelings about that.

"I want (the people who think the show is dated) to tell me the
last time they saw a bunch of people of color onstage doing blank
verse and great music and then tell me how dated it really is,"
Gash says, touching on another motivation for the production.

Gash’s production features a racially mixed cast all working
together for the same goal. For Gash, this was an important aspect
that points to the universality of theater, especially
Shakespeare.

"The language and the poetry and the music and the joy of the
play in any of Shakespeare’s plays belongs to all of us and there’s
something special about all of us doing those plays," Gash
says.

"If you’re the director, it’s not about you, it’s about the
play," Gash says. But does that mean he doesn’t have any last
minute jitters? The answer is a straight-out no.

"Anything that doesn’t work is because the director blew it,"
Gash says. And if that doesn’t worry him enough, there are the
thoughts that come to him after it’s all over.

"I’ll still be looking at it going ‘OK what did I miss? What
could I have done better?’" he says, but compares directing a show
to being a parent and learning to let go.

"If you’re a parent, you can’t run your kid’s life," Gash says.
But he still expresses concern about making sure he does everything
possible to make the production great.

Yet all of this is the background stuff for Gash. In the end, he
just wants to tell the story and give people something they can
really enjoy.

"Through the telling of this wacky Shakespearean musical comedy,
(the actors) can change your life for the better," Gash says. Maybe
we could all use some of that.

THEATER: "Two Gentlemen of Verona." Performing March 3­5,
and 8­11 at 8 p.m. Sun. matinee at 2 p.m. Little Theater. TIX:
$12 general; $9 staff/faculty; $6 student. For more info call
825-2101.

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