Feb 13, 2007

Shakespearean comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

by Kristi Kirkland, Life! Reporter
The eager actors gather in a circle at the center of the stage. They proceed through a series of warm-up exercises — prepping their voices for the verbose dialogue of William Shakespeare’s  “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

After several minutes, the director calls the cast to order and they scurry to their positions. Thus begins another rehearsal of the Liberty University Theater Arts Department.

Assistant Professor Neal Brasher, who is the director of the play, explained that this is the first Shakespearean play that the department has put on in four years. “Love’s  Labour’s Lost” is one of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies and it is “not as well known,” according to Brasher. This play is an “early Elizabethan comedy,” and it includes “zany, clownish characters.” According to SparkNotes, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is the story of a king and three lords who collectively “swear an oath to scholarship, which includes fasting and avioiding contact with women for three years.”

Casting for the play began in December. This gave the actors the chance to practice their lines during Christmas break. “It is very wordy, even for Shakespeare,” said Brasher. Because of the play’s wordiness, Brasher said he made some revisions to the script. In spite of the changes he made, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is still full of fast-paced and witty dialoge.

Assistant Stage Manager Heather Allen said this play is a very simple one  — the entire cast remains on stage for the duration of the performance. According to Brasher, the play does not contain many props, but the characters make up for this with an endless battle of wit.

Most of the characters play several parts, such as junior Alex Okagu from Laurel, Md., who plays three roles in this play — Moth, Dum-aine and Mercade.

Brasher has been an assistant professor of the theatre arts department for the last two-and-a-half years, and he directs about two plays each year. He chose this particular play “to challenge these actors,” he said. The characters not only make up the plot of the story, but they make up the entire set, and Brasher sees this as a challenge to the actors. “Everything depends on the color of the characters,” he said. 

Okagu admits that it has been difficult to learn the lines. He said it has been “tough” to combine the comedy and acting with the language of Shakespeare. This is Okagu’s sixth production at Liberty, and he has been working with Brasher for a while. He said he has been waiting for Brasher to direct a Shakespearean play for quite some time.

This play has a touch of dramatic flair within the humor, and the vibrant personalities of the characters bring the story to life. “What I am hoping the audience will get out of it is a lot of fun,” said Brasher. He hopes the audience will walk away realizing that Shakespeare is “more crazy and fun than they think it is.”

After several hours, the night of rehearsal comes to a close and the now tired actors gather their things to leave. Brasher reminds the cast that at the next practice they will not receive prompts  — they must have all their lines memorized.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” will premier Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lloyd Auditorium. The show will run for three weeks, and tickets can be purchased at the box office in the Fine Arts Hall.

Contact Kristi Kirkland at kmkirkland@liberty.edu.

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