‘Love’s Labour’s’ Found: UA stages play 18 months in the making

‘Love’s Labour’s’ Found: UA stages play 18 months in the making
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

Paul Barnes, guest artist in the University of Arkansas Theatre Department, says the show he’s directing — William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” — is a good choice for the first live show since March 2020. First of all, the light-hearted romantic comedy might help theatergoers take their minds off the last 18 months of the pandemic.

“It’s based in very beautiful language,” says Barnes. “It’s an early play of Shakespeare’s, and I think he was kind of showing off, because of the number of puns and the amount of rhymed couplets. There’s a lot of rhyming that goes on in the play, and it’s his way of getting to the male characters being showoffs about their expertise with language, but also really enjoying being good with language. It’s like rap is today for young people — really being able to take words and express them in new and different ways that are really fun and playful.”

And performing it outside — the show will be mounted in the mini Greek theater adjacent to the Fine Arts Building — means audience members can enjoy the fall weather while limiting their chances of covid-19 transmission in the open air.

“People might want to dress warmly and bring a stadium blanket — but I understand the theater has rented some blankets that will be available,” says Barnes. “But it’s a beautiful setting — open to the sky and the stars, and we’ve been visited by the moon. It’s really been gorgeous to be out there.”

Barnes’ home base is in Oregon, where he worked for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for many seasons before accepting a position as associate artistic director at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria, Calif., where he worked for a decade. For the past two decades, though, he’s been traveling the country, working as a freelance director. His UA production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is a year-and-a-half in the making; the show was cast and headed to production when live performances in the department were canceled. Barnes says he’s happy to finally be bringing the show and its actors to the stage.

“People have a tendency to fear Shakespeare, that they’re not going to be able to understand it,” he notes. “I think ‘Love’s Labour’s’ is a play that, although some of the language is complex, is a pretty clear story.

“My thing about theater is that, unlike television, it involves active listening on the part of the audience. You have to kind of lean forward and really listen, while television and film tend to do all the work for us. But the wonderful thing about plays and the spoken word is that it really engages our imagination, and it invites us to be active in our listening I think people will get the hang of the language in the verse after the first 10 minutes of the play. There’s a little bit of natural adjustment for audiences, but, like anything, if you just hang in there, everybody is fully capable of understanding his plays.”



‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-3 and 6-10

WHERE — Mini Greek Amphitheatre, UA Fine Arts Center, 340 Garland Ave., Fayetteville

COST — Free, but tickets must be reserved online.

INFO — uark.universitytickets.com

Categories: Theater