Play 3: Love’s Labours Lost (Greenwood IN)

2009 June 13

Because the trip to Indianapolis wouldn’t take me much time, I was fairly relaxed about getting on the road. I had been looking forward to this venue as much as Cymbeline and Love’s Labours Lost would be the only performance that I would see in Indiana. And, along with Cymbeline, this was one of the first plays that I planned on attending. As an added bonus, I would be meeting up with former students now English teachers in the Indy area. Andy and Cristen were both students of mine in English 10 and Beginning Journalism and then Newspaper (I’m making sure I include this information because I didn’t get it right in my post-play review on utterli). Andy and Cristen dated their junior and senior years and really this couple flies in the face of my “don’t date in high school” speech that I give all classes.

They’ve both finished their second year of teaching and as I pulled up to their house off 99th Street, I suppose I wasn’t surprised. See Andy and Cristen are about the best students you could have in class and they are also good human beings (a combination that doesn’t always go together). Andy and Cristen are the people you are happy to say “Yes, I’ve had them in class.” It’s not often that you come across good people in life and it’s pretty gratifying as a teacher knowing that these same people are now in the same profession as you are (not that I had any significant impact on their decision).

Andy greeted me at the door and I got to see the puppy that Cristen had been writing about on her Facebook page. We ate at a local restaurant (Bentley’s I think) and we talked mostly about teaching stuff. I think I got a little self-involved (I really do try and check myself when I’m asked a question about pedagogy) and Andy eventually reminded me that the play started at 7 p.m. (he had checked the time on the website, I had assumed that it would begin at 8 p.m.). Let’s just skip the part about speed limits on I-465 and just say that we were going with the flow of traffic in the left lane (for the most part). We pulled into the park parking lot and made our way down to the amphitheater.

The play had already begun. Bummer.

But we found a place on the right side among the other camping-chaired community people in this park in Greenwood, Indiana. It took me a few moments to get into the story– mostly because of the adrenaline rush of being late–but eventually I caught the line of the story. Whereas the seating in Harrisburg was almost a half-bowl much like smaller theaters, this venue was a bit more flat and the stage and the action felt further away. The actors were miked and it was a good thing for two reasons. First of all, there were many of the older generation and the sound would simply just die out after it would be spoken. And second, a man was mowing the property directly behind the pavilion for the first two acts of the play. It made me smile, really. (Oh, I should also add that the approach path for the local airport was directly above us).  All of which is standard for outdoor theater and most people just accept it as a given. I still find it sort of comical.

If you remember this play at all, Love’s Labours Lost is the one where men decide to make a bet and women sort of play around with them. At one point, disguises go on (veils and switching of accessories for the women, beards and Russian accents for the men) and promises are made and during the reveal, honest dedication and pledges of love are set. Unfortunately, and this provokes a “what were you guys thinking?” scream from me, all four couples decide to suspend their togetherness for twelve months and a day…perhaps as a cooling off period, or perhaps just to make sure that the couples really do mean business. Either way, this production stops the play at this point (they trimmed the play down to 90 minutes for their audience) and we’re left in disbelief.

This was yet another opening night performance (three in a row) and it was incredibly clean for this type of theater. In its in second year, the Greenwood Shakespeare Festival is looking to reach its audience with the magic of Shakespeare’s work and this night they hit it just right. All of the cast are people from the community with various levels of experience (from first performance to over forty years of experience).  I sometimes get a bit uncomfortable when there’s children or teenagers on the stage. Maybe it’s the many AFV (America’s Funniest Videos) shows I’ve logged in on Sunday nights or perhaps it’s the kids programs at schools or churches. But not here, not at this production in Greenwood, Indiana. And so I was able to sit back in my chair and enjoy this story where people misunderstand one another and reach a bit beyond their limits and we don’t exactly get the wedding at the end and live happily ever after.

I was a bit put off at first by the abrupt ending when Berowne says “That’s too long for our play” and it’s over. But really, I kind of liked how this production was packaged and edited for this audience. The weight of suspended love still hangs in the air and still I want to knock their heads together, all four couples, and tell them that they don’t have to wait a year and a day. Go grab some coffee and make the wedding plans. But I didn’t write the story and it’s a Shakespearean comedy and the Greenwood Shakespeare Festival did the play justice.

With the play over and people folding their camping chairs, I said good-bye to Andy and Cristen and went over to shake somebody’s hand in the production. I got to talk to one of the cast members and then to one of the co-founders (Andrea Lott) and we talked about my project and Shakespeare plays and audiences. Andrea mentioned about how she wasn’t sure this audience would be ready for a history play, that this audience perhaps didn’t have the background of Shakespeare to get the references. No matter how sophisticated this Greenwood audience was, this was a wonderful production by a community company that does not receive any outside funds from grants. Which brings me to a little aside: when you see a free production of a Shakespearean play or any of the arts, you should feel it your duty (and obligation) to give at least the price of a ticket to the local cinema movie-plex. If you are concerned about tax-deductions, then most not-for-profit theatre companies have a way for you to give and still get that tax-deduction.

And so I gave my donation in the can at the back table and headed toward my car, then to Starbucks and some gas and then on I-65 to Louisville for some sleep. Fortunately, my Garmin 265 got me there on time.

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