GQ and JQ, the Q Brothers, have been contemplating the translation of the complete works of William Shakespeare into a hip-hop idiom ever since the success of their international hit The Bomb-itty of Errors. In the fall of 2007, they presented a draft of a reworked Much Ado About Nothing to CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Creative Producer Rick Boynton, who agreed that it was "funny stuff" but needed work. As Boynton remembers, he and Gaines were "really jazzed by these two young guys and their project." Boynton, GQ and JQ engaged in a wide-ranging artistic conversation about what worked in the piece and what did not, and agreed to a 29-hour workshop in November 2007, with actors to help develop the characters, lines and staging.
According to Boynton in a 2008 interview, "I have never worked with people like them. There is this incredible laidback quality, but tremendous passion and drive at the same time—a perfect combination for creating, and for creating comedy. They don't censor themselves—there are no holds barred. They literally write best from 12 midnight to 12 the next day. When they are sleepy and punch-drunk is when they write their best material." There have been many rewrites and another week of workshops since November, and the piece will continue to take shape through the rehearsal process.
Some of the challenges of this piece are typical of new work: making sure all the characters are fleshed out, balancing the importance of the roles, making sure the ending is appropriately realized and paced. Other challenges are inherent in adapting the work of Shakespeare, such as translating the acerbic banter between Beatrice and Benedick into expression in a hip-hop vernacular. There can be a temptation to be too reverential towards Shakespeare, and Boynton reminded the Q Brothers to "do what you do, don't apologize for it, embrace it. Shakespeare inspires you to do this." To realize the Q Brothers' vision and make the show as entertaining as possible, Boynton stressed finding the balance between situations and characters that are inherently funny with direct parody of Shakespeare's Much Ado.
For CST, Funk It Up joins a growing list of new works and adaptations developed at the Theater, including Kabuki Lady Macbeth and The Three Musketeers. New work and new ways of working inspire and energize the core mission of presenting the works of Shakespeare.