Lynchburg College’s latest production offers a contemporary twist on one of Shakespeare’s lesser known comedies, just in time for Homecoming weekend.
"Love’s Labour’s Lost," which opens Thursday in the Dillard Theatre, will be set on the LC campus, with king and princess characters from the original now presidents of a fraternity and sorority.
"Because there’s Greek life here, I thought it might work really well in terms of a parallel," says director Geoff Kershner, who joined the faculty this year and knows a thing or two about reimagining Shakespeare’s work.
Kershner is also the founder and artistic director of Amherst’s Endstation Theatre Company, which always includes at least one of the Bard’s plays in its annual Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival (past productions include "Hamlet" set during the Civil War and "Macbeth" during the War of 1812).
"Love’s Labour’s Lost" is about a king and three of his lords, all of whom swear off women to focus on their studies. But, just as they make that commitment, the Princess of France comes for a visit with three of her ladies-in-waiting.
"They’re forced into having a meeting with these four women," Kershner says. "Then, of course, each man ends up falling in love with one of the women."
The play isn’t done as often as many of Shakespeare’s other works, so Kershner decided to open it with two professor characters doing a lecture on the text, "as if it’s a class at LC," he says. "We don’t have the crutch of everybody knowing this story."
The idea to set the action on a college campus came to him after he read a review about a touring production of the show.
"[It] talked about how that production really captured the idea of being a young adult … what that is in terms of men and women and relationships," he says. "And the play really revolves around the men trying to be scholars. The fact that they swear off women is the conflict."
In addition to the fraternity and sorority presidents — whose lords and ladies are now pledges — other characters include a lacrosse player, a college security guard and a hipster who wears skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts.
The set is a recreation of Lynchburg College’s Dell, right down to the iconic red Adirondack chairs that litter campus.
"As a teaching tool, it’s helpful because these characters become something accessible to the actors," Kershner says. "It’s not something distant. It’s real to them."
They’ve incorporated contemporary music into the show, too, with flash-mob style choreography (expect to see the "Wobble," basically this generation’s "Electric Slide," in there).
"I had the actors pick what they think the 20 top pop songs are right now. I went through and selected which songs we were going to use," Kershner says. "The songs are used for transitions. It helps keep this really youthful. … It’s about them."