Their Voice: Much ado about something

Left to right: Leanne Teske, Nicholas Poll, Taylor Luna, Liz Ault, Sam Coons and Dominic Sodergren perform in ScenicView Academy's performance of "Much Ado About Nothing."

Boy and Girl can’t stand each other. Then, Boy overhears that Girl secretly loves him, and Girl discovers that Boy loves her, too. Add masks, mistaken identities, deception and meddling from friends and relatives, and what emerges is a plot with twists, irony and humor. Throw in some Beatles’ hits and the result is a Shakespeare musical. 

A local cast consisting of students from ScenicView Academy will perform "Much Ado About Nothing" June 25-27. Each year students from the special education school flock to the auditions for the opportunity to do something fun and creative. Based in Provo, ScenicView Academy is a training and job placement nonprofit for adults on the autism spectrum. It was founded on the vision that people with autism and learning disabilities can learn.

Anna Hargadon and Lita Giddins, of the school's fine arts department, are directing this lively adaptation of the famous Shakespeare play. They are experienced thespians who collaborated on two previous productions at the school, “Henry V” in 2014 and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2013.

Hargadon and Giddins, both BYU graduates, are thrilled with the students’ talents and the way in which theater has helped them individually grow.

“Our theatrical productions not only give students the opportunity to be creative and perform, but they also offer a stage, if you will, to learn life’s lessons through overcoming challenges,” Hargadon said. “We teach skills that help them lead fulfilling lives and meaningful careers. Our Shakespeare plays are the context in which a lot of those lessons and skills are learned.”

Giddins said the plays are a great teaching tool that give students a taste of what they can accomplish.

“This year we added music, not only for the element of interest, but also to help deliver important messages," Giddins said. "For instance, the theme of love is conveyed through 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' and loyalty through 'A Little Help From My Friends.' These lessons are not lost on our student actors.”

According to newly hired executive director Marty Matheson, everything at ScenicView Academy is done to empower students to rise above what society has decreed as their lot in life.

"Shakespeare plays are part of that empowerment," he said. "[Students] glow with pride because they are trusted to create and achieve. Parents, family, friends and the general public are all invited to this showcase of student talents. We’d love for them to see these young adults through new eyes and clearer vision.”

The 70 residents, plus several day students, come from all across the United States. High school completion courses, college preparation, life skills classes and other academic subjects are part of the curriculum. Significant additional guidance is provided by therapists, case managers, employment specialists, educators and other support staff, who all contribute to the curriculum.

For more information about the school and upcoming play, visit www.svacademy.org or call (801) 226-2550.