A Modern Twist on Shakespeare

Students bring buzz to a timeless Shakespeare story


Photo courtesy of www.wlu.edu

Alexandra Cline

From Shakespeare to an Ariana Grande song, Washington and Lee’s production of Love’s Labors Lost offers a taste of traditional storytelling with a plethora of laughter.

The Shakespeare play follows King Ferdinand of Navarre and his three close friends as they agree to forgo all distractions for three years in order to study. Shortly after, however, the men meet a French princess and her three friends, falling in love with them and ruining their promise to one another.

Director and Assistant Professor of Theater Jemma Alix Levy began work on the production during the previous school year, and auditions followed within the first week of classes this fall.

The play reflects common difficulties faced by college students today, such as the balance between responsibility and fun.

Though the show features modern elements, including two contemporary dance numbers, Levy ensured that no alterations to the traditional lines were made.

“It preserves the traditional style of Shakespeare,” Levy said. “One of the reasons why it’s particularly difficult to make edits to the script is because [the play] is so language driven.”

Because of the particular atmosphere and staging Levy created, the play is featured in the Johnson Theatre instead of the larger, more commonly used Keller Theatre.

“I used a thrust configuration where the audience is on three sides of the stage, which is closer to the way it would have been performed,” she said.

One result of this change in venue is the increase in performance dates, expanding to seven shows as opposed to the usual three in order to accommodate for the different set-up.

“The theater seats fewer people and Shakespeare usually sells well so we’ve bumped up the number of performances,” Levy said. “It’s really wonderful to have a longer run of of the show so the production can grow.”

A central reason behind the choice of this uniquely-staged play is that it includes an ensemble cast and large roles for many students, highlighting a multitude of individual talents.

“We have all become so close over the past eight weeks,” Charlotte Cook, ‘19, said. “We laugh with each other a lot….Everyone looks out for everyone else and wants everyone to perform the best they can.”

Such a goal resonated with audience members, who commended the chemistry among the actors and praised their enthusiasm, especially the performances of first-year students.

“I really liked the actors and they all seemed really into it,” Yolanda Yang, ‘18, said. “It was different than the traditional Shakespeare play so it was really interesting in that way.”

Adding to the one-of-a-kind nature of the play, the lights in the theater remained on throughout the performance as actors spoke to and directly addressed the audience at various points.

For Cook in particular, the ability to perform in this Shakespeare play provided an opportunity to immerse herself in the theater program at W&L while forming friendships with fellow students.

“I wanted to get involved as soon as possible, and I also love Shakespeare,” she said. “I was thrilled to be cast, and these past two months have been so much fun.”