Love's Labor's Lost
7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat. (Previews Thu.-Fri.; opening night Sat.); 1:30 p.m. Sun.; through June 13
Tulane University, Lupin Theater, 865-5106; www.neworleansshakespeare.com
In recent years, the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane has brought distinct local flavor to its productions. The festival's 2008 staging of The Taming of the Shrew, for example, was set in the lower French Quarter of the late 1950s.
"One of the things New Orleanians love to ask is, 'How does this relate to me?'" says Jim Fitzmorris, festival co-artistic director and New Orleans native. "Let's face it, it's what we do, we're very provincial. New Yorkers are also very provincial, there just happens to be 9 million of them. So the question becomes, how do I use New Orleans to make Shakespeare more accessible? A friend of mine says that if any American city ever screamed out for Shakespeare, it's New Orleans. There's enough damn balconies to last a lifetime."
For the 2010 festival season, Fitzmorris and co-artistic director Ron Gural arrived at a theme they call "collaborative desire." Macbeth, a new play called The Everlasting Bonfire, and festival opener Love's Labor's Lost all carry themes relating to partnership or shared worlds of one type or another. Fitzmorris and Gural also took this idea to heart and invited several local theater companies to collaborate in the productions — a deliberate move to build stronger relationships with other theater groups.
The NOLA Project, which was created in 2005 as a summer theater company for students coming to New Orleans on break from New York University (NYU) and now thrives as a permanent local fixture, is collaborating on Love's Labor's Lost. "I wrote a play for the NOLA Project two years ago and I enjoyed their company — in both senses of the word," Fitzmorris says. "I enjoyed what they brought talent-wise, and I thought they brought a great spirit into the room. It felt very young and vibrant. It felt like the future."
Tulane professor and Love's Labor's director Buzz Podewell, who recently published a two-volume work on Shakespeare, found the NOLA Project to be a perfect match for the material. "People often cast this play with actors who are much too old for the parts," Bodewell says. "I think the fun of it is getting real young people to appear in this play, which is about kids being silly and irresponsible and falling in love."
Members of the NOLA Project trained at the Stella Adler Studio (affiliated with NYU's Tisch School of the Arts), an institution known for its focus on Shakespeare. But Love's Labor's Lost will mark the NOLA Project's first official foray into the Bard's work. "We've done everything from original political plays to Moliere to Stephen Sondheim musicals," says company member A.J. Allegra. "Shakespeare is the one big mountain we haven't climbed yet."
Company founder Andrew Larimer agrees. "We've talked about doing this play for three years," he says. "We've all been trained in Shakespeare for a while now, but we've never had the chance to show our stuff down here. This is our big shot."