On Wednesday, April 11, “Much Ado About Nothing” opens at the Villanova Theatre. Falvey Memorial Library has a host of resources on Shakespeare, among them Shakespeare in Performance: Prompt Books from the Folger Shakespeare Library. You may use this resource to explore what are called prompt books – it’s right there in the title.
What in the world is a prompt book, you might be wondering? If you are at all like me, and find the development of a play from page to production to be absolute magic, you might find that prompt books reveal the mechanisms of that magic.
According to Shakespeare in Performance, a prompt book, “is the production’s bible, containing a wealth of instructions and information alongside the basic text of the play.” In other words, prompt books contain the notes, ideas and thinkings of others who have put on the play before to help the next generation of actors understand and explore the characters, sights and sounds of the play.
For example, in one book for “Hamlet,” you might find that one actor like to hold the skull aloft during the famous “To Be or Not To Be” speech, where another might like to put it down altogether. In a third book still, you might find notes that indicate an actor likes to hold the skull differently. All of these notes help the production staff and performers create a cohesive and purposeful rendition of their show.
All of this is to tell you to search “Much Ado” on the database; you’ll get an insider’s look at how directors choose their staging and how performers decide their diction. Then check out “Much Ado” at VU Theatre on April 11-14 and April 17-21 at 8 p.m. or the matinee showings at 2 p.m. on April 15 and 22. You’ll end up with a ton to talk about!
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant in the Communication and Marketing Dept. at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.