Comedy and romance have collided all July at the Wells-Metz Theatre.
Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” are being performed in IU Summer Theatre, and they’re being produced by the same cast and crew.
The back to back shows have been in rotation since July 7, and will continue Tuesday July 18 through Sunday July 23.
When considered back to back, the plays offer surprising parallels, actress and professor Jenny McKnight said.
“Watching them is a treat and a fantastic way to learn more about these worlds and the many ways in which the stories and characters still delight modern audiences,” she said. “I hope people come see both plays.”
Undergraduates and professional actors were brought together to rehearse and prepare two audience-ready productions in only three weeks.
“It’s great training for our students,” Department of Theatre and Drama chair and director of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” Jonathan Michaelsen said.
“Audiences can come see one show, then come another night and see a completely different set, different costumes, but the same actors doing different roles.”
“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” one of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, follows a king and his friends as they swear off the company of women to focus on studying until a princess and her ladies challenge their intentions.
It’s a great commentary on how people can’t be totally committed to one thing, Michaelsen said.
“These guys set out to do this noble thing, create an ivory tower and study for three years, and the humanity of them torpedoes their desires,” Michaelsen said.
Austen’s “Persuasion,” on the other hand, is a classic romance that follows the struggles of two characters deciding if they still love each other after seven years apart.
Those characters — the wealthy Anne Elliot and the navy captain Frederick Wentworth — are an appealing part of the production, associate chair in the Department and director of “Persuasion” Dale McFadden said.
“They tell the story of young people striving to find themselves in society and romance,” McFadden said.
To produce both of these plays at once, the cast rehearsed eight hours a day for six days each week.
“As a performer, you have to remain on your toes, flexible and very focused,” McKnight said.
The best way to deal with the heightened expectations of carrying two productions is to understand the collaborative nature of theater, McKnight said.
“You are relying on your fellow company members to show up and give one hundred percent, they are relying on you for the same thing,” McKnight said. “We all have to do it all.”
Despite these difficulties, theater is important to those involved as it builds community and allows for thematic expression.
“The people who come are confronted with great ideas in a live setting, with the actors right there,” Michaelsen said. “That exchange is something you don’t find in the movies.”
For McKnight, as important as community is finding enjoyment in an actor’s versatility and flexibility across the shows.
“A couple of the actors in this summer’s company are playing four roles,” McKnight said. “It’s been fun to watch them stretch their imaginations and their muscles to bring to life such a variety of characters.”
Performances of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “Persuasion” run until July 22 and 23, respectively.
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