‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’ found: an interview with William Finlay

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Chair of the Theater and Dance Department and Professor at Union, William Finlay, sat down with the Concordy to discuss the upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

Finlay is directing the show and is excited to showcase Union’s talent in the production.

Jenna Salisbury: With your extensive experience in theater, what about this production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” excites you the most?

William Finlay: Well first of all, we’re doing it outdoors, and this is the first time we will doing not only Shakespeare, but any production outdoors here in Jackson’s Garden. So all of this is new for us. And it has really been an adventure as well. Designing a set for outside, knowing that we have to begin right at 6:00 and be done before the sun sets, since we’re doing it under the sun, like Shakespeare did, where there is no lighting, so we have to done before it gets dark. It’s been different and exciting for everybody, production and performance wise.

JS: What do you love most about teaching and working with your students? How is it different from working with professional thespians?

WF: What we have here at Union are actors in training or students who just have a passion for theater, and for some people it’s their first theater experience ever. So it’s a real mixed bag, which makes it very exciting, because you get to see the younger people who are just being exposed to theater working along our “seasoned” upper level actors and they kind of train each other in a lot of ways. There are seniors, who are going on to careers in theater or graduate school working with the underclassmen. And certainly doing Shakespeare, which is different from other types of theater, is a difficult task. Especially for young students just starting to understand the language and make Shakespeare’s language sound as casual as today’s vernacular. It’s tough. And so the students have really been working hard. They do quite a bit of work with our vocal instructors here. For instance Professor Culbert, who is an expert in vocal work for Shakespeare, has been working with the cast both in and out of rehearsal, making sure they get the language right. It takes hundreds of hours trying to put something together like this, because it’s harder than your average play.

JS: So many Shakespearean plays have been performed in different time periods, such as the ’50s or ’60s. What time period did you decide to emulate in “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and why?

WF: We are doing a nod to the 1980s. In this play, despite it not being a musical, it contains a lot of musical numbers using ’80s music, featuring artists such as Michael Jackson, amongst others. It’s a lot of fun. And I chose the ’80s, because visually I thought it was an interesting period, and sometimes I think it’s a forgotten period. Many people still know the music of the ’80s. It’s still very popular. And even a lot of phrases such as “take a chill pill” are still used today. And ’80s movies are still relevant today as well. You know classics, like “Back to the Future” or “Dirty Dancing.” So it’s a good time period that still resonates with people. And we’ve certainly represented the ’80s with the neon colors and fusing that with Elizabethan style. It’s going to spectacular, visually.

JS: What do you want your audience to take away from this performance?

WF: It’s a romantic comedy, so we have Shakespeare’s lovers, and Shakespeare’s “fool,” who supposedly is one of Shakespeare’s most intelligent characters that he ever wrote. The fool’s name is Costard. He’s a reverent, he tells people the truth, he’s not afraid to speak his mind in front of the King. And with those elements, and the mistaken letters given to the wrong people and mistaken identities, amongst other things, make this show a classic tale. And what I find interesting about the play is it ends on not such a comedic moment. It actually ends on a rather somber moment, where the Queen is informed that her father has just passed away in France. And literally, that moment is how the play ends. Scholars have said there is a sequel called “Love’s Labour’s Found,” and that “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is just the beginning of the tale. Unfortunately, no one’s ever found it! There are even references to it in scholarly tombs, but no one’s managed to find the script. They’re still looking for it. But altogether, I think it will be very entertaining, despite the cliffhanger.

JS: What did you find as one of the best aspects in putting on this performance, as well as working with the students and faculty?

WF: It’s the discovery and the journey to the performance that’s wonderful. Everyone’s enthusiastic and working towards the same goal in making it a success. And as the professors get excited, the students get excited. It’s a great experience to work with students in taking what they have to offer and collaborating with the other professors here to create something like this. A production.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” will open Wednesday, May 27, at 6 p.m. and will run every evening through Saturday, May 30. Additionally, there will be a matinee at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 31. All performances will take place in Jackson’s Garden.

The box office will be at the gate. General admission is $10, and student and alumni tickets are $7.

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