Things are about to get a little out of control in Rowayton's Pinkney Park.
That's because Shakespeare on the Sound's 2011 production of "Much Ado About Nothing" is set to begin Thursday.
"The characters reunite after an absence to have a party and, as can happen at a party, things get out of control," artistic director Joanna Settle said. "It's really a lot of fun."
Settle has been at the helm of Shakespeare on the Sound for the past three years, and is excited to announce that original music will once again be provided by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, who were nominated for multiple Tony Awards in 2008 for the musical "Passing Strange."
Settle also said that the park venue will play a critical role in this production's setting. Since "Much Ado About Nothing" contains several party scenes, set designer Andrew Lieberman has cleverly "created the park to be a location where they (the characters) would have a party," she said.
"This story is a spontaneous event and we wanted to put that element into the production. It's live. It's fresh."
Like most of Shakespeare on the Sound's administrative and technical staff, Lieberman comes to the company with stellar credentials. He is the head of New York University's set and film design.
Settle has received two Lucille Lortel Awards for direction of the play "9 Parts of Desire." She also was honored with the National Endowment for the Arts/Theater Communications Group fellowship grant for directors from 2000 to 2002.
A graduate of the Andrew W. Mellon Directing Program at Juilliard, Settle has taught graduate programs at her alma mater and Cornell, Williams College, Bard and other universities.
Though she believes in the importance of education in the arts, Settle also understands that actors learn while working alongside other artists.
Supervising Shakespeare on the Sound's Apprentice and Associates' Programs, Settle sees firsthand the growth that occurs in young people when they are exposed daily to all aspects of theater arts.
"Real art is not in a book," Settle said. "I think artists develop as much in the context of other artists as they do in the context of academic study. Art making is as much about discovery and freedom."
This year, Settle chose 16 apprentices, ages 14 to 27, from a pool of 120 applicants. After personally interviewing and auditioning the young men and women, Settle chose those who would work on this year's production.
"It's not an essay contest," Settle said.
Settle said the apprentice program is vital to the overall organization because she values input from young people.
The Associates Program, an outgrowth of the Apprentice Program, doesn't have a formal application process," Settle said. It's designed for "the ones who are really go-getters."
There are five associates this season working in the areas of dramaturgy, stage management, directing, costumes and education. They are Lili De Rossi, Cordelia Diamond, Noelle Valentine, Kyle Radler and Will Doughty.
To interested candidates, Settle asked for a proposal detailing their plan of study.
"What's needed is the ability to make what you want to happen, happen," Settle said. "This is how they become leaders of their experiences."
Her duties have entailed sitting in on rehearsals to get input about the actors' interpretations of their character so that the costume designer could dress them most effectively. Also, she has helped to fit the actors, shop for clothes and create the masks and wedding veil that will be used onstage.
"It's been so exciting and fun and I've learned so much," Stein said.
Speaking of education, there are several educational tie-in programs this summer offered at various venues in Fairfield County. Mark Schenker, from Yale University, will offer a lecture about "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Rowayton Library tonight at 7 and at the Greenwich Library on June 29 at 7 p.m.
Shakespeare on the Sound's Managing Director Emily Bryan, a former Shakespeare professor, also will provide a lecture called "Shakespeare on ... Relationships" on June 29 and Aug. 3 at the Darien Library at 7 p.m. Audience members are invited to bring in a passage from any of Shakespeare's plays that pertain to relationships. Bryan also will be available to discuss the ongoing production of "Much Ado About Nothing."
"Much Ado about Nothing" runs through June 26 at Pinkney Park. Admission is free, but there is a suggested donation of $20; students $10. A limited amount of reserved seating is available. Call 203-299-1300.