Love's Labour's Lost
Lennox, Patricia, Shakespeare Bulletin
Presented by the Judith Shakespeare Company at the Lark Studio Theater, New York, New York. November 23-26, 2003. Directed by Joanne Zipay. Lights by Noah Houghland. Properties by Brenna McGuire. Original music by Jeremy Wall. With Brian Linden (King of Navarre), Vince Gatton (Berowne), Derrick LeMont Sanders (Longaville), Bujan Rugova (Dumaine), Ivanna Cullinan (Princess of France), Natasha Yannacanedo (Rosaline), Michelle Kovacs (Maria), Jovinna Chan (Katherine), Michael Urie (Boyet), Richard DeGenaro (Don Armado, 11/23-24), Philip Hernandez (Don Armado 11/25-26), Sheila Ostadazim (Moth), Vanessa Elder (Dull), Ross Williams (Costard), Gwenyth Reitz (Jaquenetta), Jane Titus (Holofernes), and Joseph Capone (Sir Nathaniel).
Judith Shakespeare Company's artistic director Joanne Zipay finds ways to increase actors' opportunities to perform Shakespeare roles. She is noted for doing gender-blind casting to correct the imbalance between men and women in the plays. She has also cast women as Prospero, Caesar, and various English kings. Over the past nine years her "Shakespeare Unplugged" series has experimented with readings as a way to broaden the company's programming. The company has done twelve Shakespeare plays in this format including seven in the history cycle, Richard II to Henry VI. (A full production of Richard III is scheduled for this spring).
Zipay likes the freedom actors seem to feel when the script is handy. Readings are also practical. They require less rehearsal time; fines need to be known, but not memorized word-perfect. There is no blocking to learn: according to Actors Equity guidelines for readings, actors must stay still and read. Readings are economical. Salaries are lower, rehearsal time shorter, and there are minimal production costs, no costumes, and no sets. In budget-strapped times readings mean that companies can produce more plays and give actors a chance to play a variety of parts.
Zipay wanted to expand the "unplugged" series with something less static. She wanted something more theatrically dynamic that included movement and physical contact among the characters, even if it meant paying full salaries--which LLL did. She also wanted the actors to keep the energetic freedom they felt with scripts in front of them. For Love's Labour's Lost, she experimented with having actors move through the play, as in a fully-mounted production, but with books in hand. It worked beautifully. The cast had most of the dialogue memorized, and they shifted seamlessly in and out of the books they carried (paperback Folger editions with black-painted covers). In fact, they turned the books into props. The book became an extension of the character. Members of the court handled theirs with the panache of a Noel Coward character, cigarette holder in hand. On the other side, the comic characters were not above using their books to hit each other. In the pageant of the Nine Worthies, heraldic devices were pasted on the covers to turn them into haltingly read scripts. …