One of Shakespeare’s earliest and boldest comedies graces Atlanta’s premier stage for works by the Bard. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is playing this Thanksgiving weekend at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, presented by a cast composed entirely of teenage actors from the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Intensive for Teens program, or SIT. Adam King is the education programs producer for Atlanta Shakespeare Company, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with actor Aves Lewis to talk about this unusual comedy and the unique charm its cast will bring this weekend.
King described this demanding student program, genuinely worthy of the term “intensive:” “They’re working for four weeks, 9-4 each day…. In the mornings, we’re working on monologue work, doing workshops and masterclasses and stuff like that. Then in the afternoon, we rehearse a full-length Shakespeare play, that usually, in normal years, they get to perform for three nights at the end as a celebratory end of the program,” said King.
Due to COVID restrictions, the young actors this year were limited to a single night’s performance. However, Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Watkins happened to catch the show and was so impressed; he booked the cast for this weekend’s special encore. “[Jim] has seen so many Shakespeare plays. For him to feel passionately about bringing it back… is a special thing,” said King. “We have just been really lucky to have some of the most talented, capable young people come and be gravitated to what we do at the Shakespeare Tavern.”
Actor Lewis has trained and performed with SIT over the last three summers. “I just really connect to Shakespeare’s work just because of the way that Shakespeare Tavern does it,” she said. “They make it so timeless, and they make it connect to the audience in the times that we’re doing it in. One of the most fun parts is reading the text with your directors and your castmates and seeing which lines you can fit and change to make it funny today. Like, using humor the way we would use today and reading the lines in a different way, it’s really exciting.”
The chosen play seems to provide ample opportunities for creative interpretation. King shared a synopsis: “’Love’s Labour’s Lost’ is the story… of four young noblemen who decide that they are going to study for three years, and to be able to do that, they’re going to cut out all distractions, including women. They’re not going to allow any women into their court at all,” said King. “And what do you know it, the Princess of France and her train of young women come into their courts and disrupt that plan.”
“I play King Ferdinand of Navarre. He is kind of the king in charge of this little group of bros, as it were,” said Lewis. “He is very particular. I made a lot of choices where I would fix my shirt or adjust my crown to show how particular he is…. But he also is a bit frazzled, a bit emotional. He falls in love really easily with the princess…. He’s just a guy doing his best. I don’t think he’s the best king, but he’s a good person.”
Along with Shakespeare’s long-lauded knack for situational humor and mix-ups, anyone could relate to, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” also incorporates dense lexical flamboyance, jokes in Latin, and a kind of do-si-do of rhymed verse between two noblemen. It’s a bold choice for the teen cast, but Lewis assured us they enrich the text with careful and canny emphasis to bring smiles to any keen audience. She also noted this play’s particular charm for feminists, as it pokes fun at gender archetypes.
“A lot of the text can be reclaimed by the feminist movement,” said Lewis. “Almost every woman in Shakespeare is smarter and more cunning and more powerful than a lot of the men. And especially, playing the King this time, there are so many times that the Princess of France just completely destroys me with her words, and just is really an amazing character that I had no problem falling in love with.”
“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” performed by members of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Intensive for Teens, takes place at Shakespeare Tavern on Nov. 26 and 27. More information and tickets are available here.