Love’s Labor’s Lost

Labors dancingThe annual Summer Shortened Shakespeare presentation from DMACC Ankeny starts next weekend. Opening on Saturday June 22, Love’s Labor’s Lost will be staged at the Library building (Building 6) on the DMACC Ankeny campus. But this is no ordinary presentation of Shakespeare, as is evidenced right from the start. I mean, look at the boy band that just came to town!!!

New Approach

“For this production we really wanted to embrace the idea of doing Shakespeare in an untraditional way,” says Rachel Trimble, Resident Designer for the theatre department. “We’re modernizing Shakespeare in a way that will hopefully be relatable to our audience. We’re doing this in a multitude of ways, from contemporary music and pop culture references throughout the show, costuming the actors in a contemporary way, as well as just modernizing some of the language.”

Labors own clothes“Some of the costume pieces are influenced by the very music we use in the show, while others are coming straight from the actors. Just hearing them read the script all together for the first time, I got to watch them get a feel for and slowly develop parts of their characters. I also took some influence from the actors’ individual styles, because I felt as if this would help give the audience a connection to these characters and the story, sooner than they might with a traditional performance of Shakespeare.”


New Direction

There’s also a new director for this production of Love’s Labor’s Lost. Previous Shortened Shakespeare shows have been headed by Carl Lindberg, who is in charge of DMACC Ankeny’s theatre department. But since he and his wife just had a brand new baby, directing duties have been turned over to Craig Petersen.

Tulane PetersenPetersen is well-known in local theatre circles, having performed in productions of Fun Home with Iowa Stage and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at the Playhouse earlier this season. And while he’s also knowledgeable about Shakespeare (having been a performer and teacher with CAP-Theatre’s production of Hamlet last season), this is his first time as a solo director.

“I have directed scenes and short scripts for other projects like the 711 Theatre Project, 1 Actor/1 Writer/1 Week, as well as some other self-driven projects, however this is my first full length play. Admittedly I was not sure I was ready for such an endeavor, but I received a lot of encouragement from my lovely wife Kristin [Larson, head of drama at Grand View]. Knowing that I have one of the best, smartest and caring directors in the area with such a strong understanding of Shakespeare at home to check in with, gave me the confidence to pursue this project. So, I decided to jump in head first and give it a shot.”

Exposing students to the work of Shakespeare is one of the reasons the Shortened series exists, to help with the development of these college youth and connect them with the classics in a more palatable way. Petersen loves working this way, and seeing his charges grow. 

Labors band“Since this is a college environment and most if not all the cast has taken some acting/theater class, they have been so willing to explore, create, learn and grow as artists. They have a fresh exciting perspective and really know what it means to collaborate. The ‘teaching’ portion from my end was just helping them understand the text as well as preparing them for the reality of working as an actor in a world of directors who have different experience levels.”

“This has really been an honor and a privilege to work with this group. Actors who have been around awhile develop what I like to call their ‘bag of tricks’. This is a skill set and learned experiences that they utilize to help them ‘create’ a character. It’s great to have but also, it can sometimes hinder the creative process by setting a ‘self-imposed’ limit on what an actor believes they can accomplish. What has been fun is watching these new actors, who have not developed their ‘bag of tricks’ yet, be so willing to push themselves and make bold choices to create such fun characters.”


New Perspectives

Tiffany Liechty is a student at DMACC Ankeny, and has been involved with the theatre department there for a couple of years now. She’s playing the Princess in Love’s Labor’s Lost, and also is in charge of the choreography. And since this isn’t a “traditional” version of the show by any means, there’s lots of opportunity for her.

Shakespeare Lexicon“The language, for the most part, is very similar to the original. I find that the reason it is ‘modern’ is because of the pop references that were added to the context and switches of names. Where once the princess was coming to settle the exchange of land (I believe) is now the exchange of a rapper's chain. Also the costumes are modern day wear.”

“I think the use of social media in relationships is very relate-able to this show. The Princess and her train come in and are these high and mighty people (they'd have an amazing dating profile) and the men of the show seem to be the ones fooled by the ‘profile’ of the women. The men see the women and are almost immediately in love based on looks and status. Like this play, [that process] is a bit rushed and can lead one into falling in love with someone you don't really know. When the women traded favors and masked themselves, the men couldn't recognize the lover their eye had chosen because what the eye sees is only one sense of perception. They hadn't known the ladies long enough to have much more than that, making their eye's perception faulty.”

Labors tableau“I think the men swearing off women put them in a place of susceptibility to fail. They swore off women, putting in front of their minds’ eye what they ‘can't have.’ And we all want what we can’t have. This play shows that the organic unfolding of events without restricting oneself, is best. I learn and relearn this all the time in similar ways of the men, such as unrealistic study goals, dietary restrictions, and dating rules. And I always learn the hard way, just like the men of this play.”

Liechty is grateful for her experience over the last couple years at DMACC, and hopes others find a home there. “I think the DMACC theatre department is doing wonderful things, especially for being a community college in Iowa. The opportunities I have been offered and people I have met from being a part of this program are beyond my wildest dreams. DMACC has been the spark to connecting me to a theatre community in Des Moines that I didn't even know existed. I am so grateful that I found this program. It is doing exactly what a college should be doing: creating opportunities.”

Your opportunity to see Love’s Labor’s Lost begins on Saturday June 22, with both afternoon and evening shows on Saturdays, plus another afternoon matinee on Sunday June 23 and an evening show on Friday June 28. Tickets are FREE for the 75-minute Shortened Shakespeare production at the Ankeny Campus Library in Building 6.

Love’s Labor’s Lost photos by Krister Strandskov, courtesy of DMACC Ankeny Theatre Department; Other photos courtesy of Craig Petersen.

DMACC Ankeny Craig Petersen Tiffany Liechty Rachel Trimble