Nov. 12 2008 12:00 AM

MSU aims to offer fresh, earth-friendly take on Bard’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

Keeping a commitment to academia and abstaining from fraternization with the opposite sex may sound like the stuff of an after-school special, but the Michigan State University Theatre Department’s upcoming rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” aims to pack the wackiness necessary to entertain a collegiate crowd. “Our rendition of the play is a very physical comedy,” said Christina Traister, the production’s director. “Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard.”

The play focuses on the King of Navarre and his three companions, as they attempt to live out an oath to devote themselves to three years of study without giving in to the company of women. Naturally, this oath is compromised throughout the play, mainly by the presence of the Princess of France and her three ladies in the kingdom.

While the story is essentially the same, MSU’s version swaps the setting of Renaissance Spain for 1930s Battle Creek, giving the show a more contemporary feel.

Traister realizes some still groan at the notion of Shakespeare, whom many know best for his heavily dramatic tragedies. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” also has a reputation as a “problem play,” given its many plot devices and intellectual dialogue. Traister said the cast have worked hard to ensure this production feels different, researching the text of the play and doing table work with an Oxford Dictionary. “The best way to reach an audience is to understand what you’re saying.”

Continuing with its season theme of making “Creative Connections,” the department is working with The Office of Sustainability to make the show as environmentally friendly as possible. Everything from the scenery (painted without the use of Volatile Organic Compounds, which emit fumes known to deplete the atmosphere), to the costumes (made with fabrics made of natural fibers), to the lighting (which employs laser etching instead of “waster generating” chemical etching) have been considered to improve efficiency.

Overall, Traister believes the level of attention given to detail will draw a crowd out to the show. “If they’re gun-shy about a Shakespeare production, they should come see it,” she said.

‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’
MSU Theatre Department
Nov. 18-23
7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday
8 p.m. Friday
2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Pasant Theatre, Wharton Center
1 (800) WHARTON

Compassion for colonists
Just in time for Thanksgiving, All-of-us-Express Children’s Theatre presents tale of American Indian kindness toward European settlers with “The Legend of Pocahontas.” The play tells the story of how an Indian princess saved Captain John Smith and the English settlers in the struggling colony of Jamestown.

7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2 & 4:30 p.m. Saturdays. Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, East Lansing. $7/$5. (517) 394-4118. www.allofusexpress.org.