In Elm Shakespeare's ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost,’ Bard Gets #MeThinksToo


The playful games and delicate dances of courtship the young men and women perform in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost are taking on heightened relevance in 2018 when the rules of engagement between the sexes are under increasing scrutiny.

“Absolutely,” says director Rebecca Goodheart when asked if staging this early Shakespearean comedy is significantly different now than if it were presented a decade or more ago. “We have discovered in rehearsal more and more how timely it is.”

Goodheart, who is also producing artistic director of the Elm Shakespeare Company, which is presenting the free production Thursday, Aug. 16 through Sunday, Sept. 2 in New Haven’s Edgerton Park, says this work has an extraordinary contemporary context for the double quartet of young would-be lovers.

The story centers on Ferdinand, the young King of Navarre and his three noble friends, who have forsworn the distraction of women and a few other pleasures to concentrate on their studies for three years. That’s all well and good for these braggadocio fellows until the Princess of France and her three ladies arrive on a diplomatic mission, and who challenge the men’s character, will and libido.

“I would have had a simpler view before,” says Goodheart of the battle-infused, dominant verbiage the young men use in the play when they talk about the women. “In this day and age, we found some of that language in the play more troubling—no, not troubling—but rather more nuanced. In rehearsal, we have found a more nuanced way through this traditional story of guys going off to win their women. That wouldn’t have happened a decade ago. We’ve become more sensitive to these status and power games that happen between the sexes, as we now see its folly, and how easy it is to hurt each other. The trickiness is in finding the fair footage with each other.”