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Eighties music, hair and summer camp? Of course it's Shakespeare

Clyde, played by Evan Streblow, falsely accuses his girlfriend Hero, played by Anna Schopf, of kissing other boys at camp, much to the delight of bad girl Jennifer, played by Sarena Sabyan (left). The Cloquet High School students were practicing their spring play, "Much Ado About Camp Messina," Tuesday evening. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Cloquet High School is going "full modern" with its adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" opening Thursday with dialogue only harkening back 30-some years versus 400.

"Much Ado at Camp Messina" is set at a sleepaway camp in the 1980s. The boys and girls are back together as camp comes to a close and campers rush to find their summer love. Witty and stubborn archenemies Ben and Bea are secretly pushed together by their friends while bad apple Jennifer schemes to break up the hopelessly-in-love Clyde and Hero.

Director Alex Goebel said the romantic comedy is hilarious. Of course, he did write the adaptation himself, inspired in part by watching the movie "Weird Science" last summer.

Goebel touts the play as a tale of mistaken identities, mad science projects, fake deaths, monsters, and more, all set to the hits of the '80s!

"It's a crazy campy show. It's weird, it's funny, it's easy to understand," he said before Tuesday's dress rehearsal. "And now everyone's about to get their big '80s hair. I can't wait to see it."

This week's show is the 2014 UMD graduate's third time directing the spring play at CHS. It is also his third Shakespeare play at his alma mater.

"I personally love Shakespeare and it's legal to adapt, so it's easy to be creative," Goebel said, adding that the already larger cast sizes of Shakespeare's plays are good for Cloquet where the theater program thrives.

The first play he directed at CHS was "Midsummer Night's Dream," which featured elaborate costumes and a fairly traditional performance by a large cast. The second was "Romeo and Juliet," to which Goebel added a post-apocalyptic setting and a surprise ending. And this year he completely rewrote the play, keeping much (but not all) of the plot, and modernizing dialogue, setting and costumes. There are nearly 30 students in the play.

What would he say to folks who are on the fence about the Bard?

"If Shakespeare makes you nervous, forget [that this is Shakespeare] completely," said Goebel. "It's fun, it's campy and it doesn't even sound like Shakespeare. It's not too long either."

Performances start at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, and Saturday, May 6, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, May 7, in the Cloquet High School auditorium. Tickets go on sale an hour before each performance and there is no assigned seating or reservations. Cost is $7 for adults and $5 for students.

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