Last night, Lisa and I caught Love’s Labor’s Lost by Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at the start of its closing weekend on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. Now, those of you who have been around since (near) the beginning of this project probably know how I feel a out Love’s Labor’s Lost. Not a huge fan (it ranks down in the lower quarter of my favorite plays). People who’ve been around nearly as long also know how I feel about Kingsmen. A big fan.
OK, here’s the deal: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a summer staple. Almost any region that has more than one Shakespeare outlet will have at least one Midsummer to produce during any given year. There’s a reason for it: it’s popular. It’s light. It’s known.
And when we arrived last night at California Lutheran University for night one of the Kinsgmen Shakespeare Festival production, we saw the evidence. Nearly an hour and a half before the start of the play, the place was packed. I would say the crowd was almost twice as large as for Henry V a few weeks back. Remember, that was a very good production, well-reviewed with great word of mouth, a brilliant concept, and a matinee-handsome Henry. On the other hand, last night was opening night, with no raves to bring in a crowd. Midsummer is a popular play.
That, my friends, is a double-edged sword.
Sure, it’s popular. But it also means people have seen this play dozens of times before. The audience knows (or at least thinks they know) what to expect.
So how do you make the play your own? How do you make it fresh?
Last weekend, I took my wife Lisa and fifteen year-old son Jack, down to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California, to catch These Paper Bullets, the self-proclaimed “Modish ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” Much Ado is a blast, Lisa’s favorite Shakespeare comedy, AND a play I’d seen recently (up in Ashland earlier this month). How would this Modish Ripoff stand up?
A couple of weeks back, I took my wife Lisa and son Jack to Los Angeles’ Griffith Park to catch some free outdoor theater (#ShakespeareSetFree) by the Independent Shakespeare Company, for the first of their two summer productions, Romeo and Juliet. If you were around for that one, you know I found it to be very enjoyable. I wasn’t the only one: that production will be returning after the current production, Much Ado About Nothing, runs its course at the end of this month. But I digress. This past weekend, Lisa and I headed back to the woods for a little Nothing, or Much Ado.
There are 2462 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1231, or at Act Three, Scene One, line 65. Now, Rodes’ theory postulated that you could find (within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly summed up the major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions; and in a play with as much prose as Twelfth Night (63% of the lines are prose), this forty-line window seems to be all the more important.