Did My Heart Love ‘Til Now?

Did My Heart Love ‘Til Now?

Shakespeare falls in love on UAFS stage


“This is not life, Will. It is a stolen season.”

It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl, falls for girl, there are mistaken identities, a balcony scene and a brawl between — well, in this case, between the two competing theater companies, not the Capulets and the Montagues. And it’s not Friar Lawrence who comes to the aid of the young lovers but instead Queen Elizabeth I. Of course, even she cannot engineer a happy ending for young playwright Will Shakespeare and his beloved, Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, for she is betrothed to someone else.

“Art imitates life, life imitates art, life takes art outside for a good kicking, and art gives as good as he gets. This is postmodernism without the ponce, period drama without the pomposity,” wrote critic Ian Nathan of the 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love,” which starred Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola and won the Best Picture Oscar.

“I was carried along by the wit, the energy and a surprising sweetness,” added the late Roger Ebert. “There’s a quiet realism in the development of the romance, which grows in the shadow of Viola’s approaching nuptials: ‘This is not life, Will,’ she tells him. ‘It is a stolen season.’”

This week, the story comes to the stage at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, and Bob Stevenson, director of theater at UAFS, says the new adaptation by Lee Hall is “so fun and so much like the film that it’s a treat to get to tackle it.”

“With this piece, you get the best of both worlds,” he says, “some of the best and most famous bits of Shakespeare with a story that is accessible and easy to understand in standard English. It’s a gift for the audience, a funny, witty, romantic piece that brings the world’s most famous love story to the stage with a unique twist.

“Plus, it opens on Valentine’s Day,” Stevenson adds. “What a great treat for that special someone in your life!”

The show has been directed by two guest artists, Laura Shatkus, a professional actor and director who hails from Chicago but comes to UAFS from Northwest Arkansas, and Andrew Snyder, a UAFS theater graduate who went on to get his MFA in acting as well as studying theater abroad before working professionally.

“I was very excited to work on such an ambitious project with university students,” says Shatkus. “There have been tons of learning moments for both them and Andrew and I throughout the process. This is one of the most challenging contemporary shows to produce, simply because it calls for so much, and I was so thrilled to have an opportunity to jump into the pool with an incredibly generous and energetic group of students. Their passion and love for theater is contagious.

“In addition, I was drawn to the fact that the story is a call to arms about the importance of creation and creativity in the face of oppressive forces,” she adds. “It is a plea to us to appreciate and glorify the work that has come before and, as Viola does, to revere and encourage young artists so that perhaps 500 years from now their words, ideas and hearts will live on.”

“‘Shakespeare in Love’ is the most demanding piece I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of,” says Hunter Seegers of Van Buren, who portrays Shakespeare. “Aside from line memorization, there are dances, sword fights and so many more intricate pieces that make this puzzle. It’s been exhausting, but I’m very excited to see what our amazing cast and crew have put together in such a short amount of time.

“This play has everything one could hope for,” he adds. “Incredible dialogue, epic sword fights, romance, complex characters, and a bit with a dog! There’s something for everybody to enjoy. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the audience’s response.”



‘Shakespeare in Love’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-16 & 18-19

WHERE — Breedlove Auditorium on the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith campus

COST — $6

INFO — 788-7300

Categories: Cover Story