"Shakespeare's Most Intellectual Comedy"

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The Cat Theatre
254 Veterans Way, Carmel, IN 46032
October 21st - October 31st

Shakespeare's early comedy explodes on the Bard Fest stage as a festival of witty word play showing the youthful power Shakespeare displayed with language.  An audience favorite , it is clever, silly, and just plain fun.

Harold Bloom writes, "....But we all have favorites , in literature as in life, and I take more unmixed please from Love's Labor's Lost than any other Shakespeare Play........I entertain the illusion that Shakespeare may have enjoyed a particular and unique zest in composing it.  ....(It) is a festival  of language, an exuberant fireworks display in which Shakespeare seems to seek the limits of his verbal resources and discovers there are none.  "

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Directed by Mr John Johnson

John writes , "I am currently the drama coach at Columbus North High School (North Drama), a position I have held for 25 years. I have directed over 100 plays and musicals for high school, middle school and community groups. Our production of LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST will be my 8th full length SHAKESPEARE show to direct. In addition I have cut and adapted 5 of his plays for 10-14 year olds to do in a weeklong drama camp—we do full verse in these productions and the kids love it. 

I’ve been married for I am going to say 22 years to a wonderful woman who puts up with all my crazy antics. We have a 20 year old daughter who acts (her Celia in AS YOU LIKE IT kicked major butt) and is a helluva stage manager. She is starting her third year at the School at the Art Insitute of Chicago. I’m a marathon runner and currently run 35+ miles a week as I’m training for the Dopey running challenge at Disney World in January. I love to cook and am teaching myself to bake

So to say I’m a Shakespeare nut is an understatement. I believe Shakespeare is not only important to the development of the western theatre cannon, but that he taught modern society how to think and interact.  When I was prepping my western version of MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, I was delighted to learn that most wagons and coaches heading west had two books in their store:  the Bible and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare—these were the things that mattered. 

I believe in the power of the verse, and that if you acknowledge and honor it, Shakespeare tells the actor how to say every line.  Iambic pentameter is important, sure, but it’s when things go off rhythm that the fun begins. 
But mostly I believe that Shakespeare is fun.

I’m not interested in doing “dry, boring, vomitless” Shakespeare.

Shakespeare matters, and when things matter, fun follows. I want to see real people (even the caricatured extremes) talk to each other, fall in love and experience all the heightened emotions that go along with living for the day. This isn’t a mirror we hold up to society—it’s society, warts and all. "

Below is Mr Johnson's  Analysis of Love's Labor's Lost-

 

Love’s Labour’s Lost is considered one of Shakespeare’s first comedies if not his very first.  Too often it is dismissed as one of the lesser plays--perfectly serviceable with some brilliant moments of word play and dialogue sections full of wit and delicious interplay.  It is seen as a first draft of greater things in later plays.  The witty banter and wordplay here for Berowne and Rosaline soar to new heights in Much Ado About Nothing.  The play within the play sequence that the clowns present for the Princess becomes a masterpiece in Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The humble truths spoken by Love’s natural man Costard are more profoundly affective from the mouth of As You Like It’s Touchstone.
 
This is all true of course, if not rather dismissive.  It’s a perspective that can only be created after centuries of hindsight and consideration of the complete Shakespearean oeuvre.  However, at the time of Love’s writing Shakespeare wouldn’t have given a flying fig about either his oeuvre or hindsight of any kind.  He had a story to tell and an audience to entertain.
 
Love’s Labour’s Lost was written for a private showing for a small, elite and decidedly aristocratic audience.  These were courtly people and would have traded heavily in the art of Euphemism, a very fashionable pastime using polite words while clearly indicating the delicacies of the most intimate of relationships—if you know what I mean.  Now I wouldn’t say Love’s is his dirtiest play (I mean there is always Taming of the Shrew) but the euphemisms are so plentiful that I can’t keep up, and euphemism and innuendo are my preferred choice of trade.   
 
Likewise the clown characters in Love’s are so plentiful (8 in total) that they have their own sustained and detailed plot which is practically unheard of in the Shakespearean comedies.  More often the clown (or perhaps two clowns) have a nominal plot point or two and then appear mostly to comment on the craziness they witness from other characters.  Here they have a full third of the time devoted to their various shenanigans.  The Rude Mechanicals in Midsummer are nearly as many, but only three of them are clearly defined and all but one sit the middle of the play out.  
 
The clowns in Love’s are derived of the Italian commedia traditions, which the original courtly audience would surely have recognized, but Shakespeare goes further.  He clearly calls out well-known figures in Queen Elizabeth’s court.   He and the actors pump the affectations and peccadilloes of the real people of the court and suddenly you have a biting satire of Elizabeth’s coterie.  Think Saturday Night Live.  All those “great” impressions from SNL are just playing up of one or two noticeable physical traits to comic extremes, but it feels delicious and timely and very wicked.  That’s what Love’s Labour’s Lost really is.  Let’s get the Queen to laugh at all of her hangers on.  Publically.  And without regret.
 
Time of course has taken its toll on the clowns, having dulled their sharp points to charming and funny if mostly toothless caricatures.  For those of us who remember Tom Snyder, Dan Ackroyd’s impression of him from the early years of SNL is still a delight.  To audiences without that perspective, Ackroyd is still an actor saying things funny.  Sometimes that’s all we as an audience can ask.  But Shakespeare is Shakespeare.  He may have written this as a one shot, satirical romp, but still he added depth and nuance.  Even the lightest and seemingly most insignificant of stories can have more to them.   This works.  Every time.  Eventually Love’s was performed again privately and then entered the public arena.  A sequel was written and ironically lost. (Love’s Labour’s Wonne is mentioned in a contemporaneous letter but no copy of it exists. Now many scholars think Wonne is the original title for Much Ado About Nothing.) 
 
The satire of Elizabeth’s courtly figures with the clowns is a gateway to a much larger satire of the aristocratic class.  It is here where the story withstands the test of time.  Four young men deciding to give up matters of the heart to focus solely on study and then encountering four young women who romantically upend their world is straightforward enough.  Shakespeare takes this traditional, masculine coming of age tale and fills it with the aforementioned euphemism, innuendo and double entendre.  He makes the men of the court as ribald and randy (if not more so) than the rustic and rough-hewn clowns.  The court’s pretense of civility and decorum is just that:  pretense.  But Shakespeare will go further.  He has the visitors of France (seen in Elizabethan aristocracy as the pinnacle of good form, taste and fashion) even more crass than the men of Navarre.  These ladies are no shrinking violets.  Likewise he mirrors the male coming of age tale in the very real progression of a Princess to a Queen.  An argument can be made that the reckoning that the Princess encounters fosters the only real change and growth for the characters.   
 
The thematic overlay of time as lord and master of all and the natural approach that each moment is and has its own time add profound and bittersweet depth to the whole proceeding. 
 
This is all well and good, and I hope informative to our approach to the production.  But I’m going to take a cue from Shakespeare and say don’t give a flying fig about it at all.  We are here to tell you a story and see that you are entertained.  So, “Sit thee down, sorrow.”  

Produced by
Mr John Clair 
Ms Nan Macy
Mr JB Scoble 
Mr Kevin Robertson
Mr Max McCreary 
& Mr Glenn Dobbs

Made possible by a generous grant from
Indy Politics

and Carmel Arts Grant

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Covid Statement
 

Like many organizations in our community, Bard fest is updating our mask policy in response to the Delta Variant and new CDC recommendations. As of Sunday, August 8, masks will be required indoors for all visitors and audience members. Thank you to everyone for respecting our Covid-19 protocols and for your support of Bard Fest and our community.