What Happened While Hero Was Dead

By Meghan Brown    

Directed by Holly L. Derr

Lead Sponsor: Rae & Bill Saltzstein

Partner Sponsors: Karen & Steve Telian–Tyler and Julie Benezet & Roger Pearce

Livestream reading: Saturday, October 23, at 6 pm PT
On-Demand presentation: October 26–31


After the virtuous Hero of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is accused of wanton behavior and ditched at the altar, another false rumor spreads: the rumor of Hero’s death. Hidden away in the maid’s quarters, Hero is desperate to clear her name so that things can go back to normal… until some unexpected encounters reveal that being dead might be the best thing that could’ve happened to her life.

Playwright Perspective

Much Ado About Nothing is a great play. The language! The characters! The sexual tension!

But it’s also a fucking injustice.

Hero does NOTHING wrong. Nothing! It’s even in the title! Then she’s lied to, lied about, subjected to vicious public shaming, and told that she’s literally better off dead before MARRYING THE DUDE WHO SHREDDED HER LIFE IN THE FIRST PLACE! All while she gets barely any dialogue, disappearing for giant chunks of the script and only returning to be sweet and chill and ingenue-y about the whole thing.


I wrote this play to avenge Hero. What happened to her wasn’t nothing. She deserves what we all do—to learn and feel and grow and change, to pass through the fire and come out brighter and stronger and braver on the other side.


Hero Isabella Briggs
Beatrice Christiana Clark*
Margaret Emily Serdahl*
Benedick Zach Appelman*
Leonato/Chorus Rafael Untalan*
Don Pedro/Chorus Andrés Rodriguez
Claudio/Borachio/Chorus Galen Molk*
Stage directions Nina Pamintuan

*Appearing through an Agreement between ANPF and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

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Playwright Image

Meghan Brown writes about dangerous women. Winner of the Ovation Award for Playwriting of an Original Play for The Pliant Girls (Fugitive Kind Theater), her work has been performed at Lincoln Center (Untuned Ears Hear Nothing but Discord); Victory Gardens Theater (The Tasters, Ignition festival of New Plays); Portland Center Stage (The Tasters, JAW: A Playwrights Festival); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (I KILLED A TIGER); and the Getty Villa (Cowboy Elektra, with Rogue Artists Ensemble). Other theatrical projects include These Girls Have Demons (music by Sarah Taylor Ellis, developed with Pittsburgh CLO); What Happened While Hero Was Dead (developed at Moving Arts MADlab, Great Plains Theater Conference 2021); The Tasters (Rivendell Theater, UT Austin, upcoming Milwaukee Rep); Shine Darkly, Illyria (Fugitive Kind Theater); The Discord Altar (OperaWorks); The Kill-or-Dies (Electric Footlights + Moving Arts, Max K. Lerner fellowship winner); and This Is Happening Now (available through Montag Press). She is a current member of the Geffen Writers Room at the Geffen Playhouse.

Click here to read our Q&A with Meghan.

Director Image

Holly L. Derr is a director, writer, and professor of theater, and the Head of Graduate Directing and Artistic Director at the University of Memphis. Her most recent production, Red Bike, by Caridad Svich, ran at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati.

She directs new plays and gender-flipped classics, such as Romeo and Juliet at Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House; Harry and the Thief, by Sigrid Gilmer, at The Know Theatre in Cincinnati; and my own play, American Medea. Favorite past projects include As Long As Fear Can Turn to Wrath at Son of Semele Theater, What We Were, by Blake Hackler, and new plays by Gregory S. Moss, Lauren Yee, and C. Denby Swanson.

Originally from Dallas, TX, she holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, where she studied with Anne Bogart and Robert Woodruff, and a BA in Dramatic Arts from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the founding Artistic Director of SKT, Inc., a New York-based non-profit theater, and has directed new plays for the Know Theatre, Ashland New Plays Festival, and the PlayPenn New Play Development Festival. She has served on the faculties of Marlboro College, Smith College, and Skidmore College, and has taught and directed at the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University, The Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company Consortium, CalArts, the University of California at Riverside, and Chapman University. She was the 2017 Producing Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

She is also a feminist media critic who writes about theater, film, television, and pop culture, using the theoretical and analytical tools of the theater to reflect upon broader issues of gender and race. Follow her @hld6oddblend or on Facebook.

Appelman Zach Headshot (L)
Zach Appelman
Briggs Isabella
Isabella Briggs
Christiana Clark
Christiana Clark
Galen Molk
Galen Molk
Nina Pamintuan Ashland New Plays Festival stains Sarah Cho
Nina Pamintuan
Rodriguez Andres Web
Andrés Rodriguez
Serdahl Emily Headshot2 Web
Emily Serdahl
4X6 HEAD SHOT – Rafael Untalan V200x300
Rafael Untalan

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