University Theatre presents 'Love's Labor's Lost'

Guest Director Melora Kordos (front) visits with her cast during a rehearsal for "Love's Labor's Lost," which opens Nov. 13.
Guest Director Melora Kordos (front) visits with her cast during a rehearsal for "Love's Labor's Lost," which opens Nov. 13.

University Theatre continues its season in November with William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” guest directed by Melora Kordos.

Performances are Nov. 13-15 and 18-21 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. in Howell Theatre, which is located on the first floor of the Temple Building at 12th and R sts.

One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to foreswear the company of women for three years of studying and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation with the Princess of France and her ladies, who come for a diplomatic discussion over land.

“This is one of Shakespeare’s plays called the ‘problem plays’ because it has this weird twist all of a sudden,” Kordos said. “We go from this very light, silly comedy for the entire play, and then near the end, it just turns 180 degrees.”

Some researchers think there must have been a sequel, given how it somewhat abruptly ends. But Kordos has a different theory.

“Queen Elizabeth was on the throne at the time, and everything was written to please her,” she said. “This is a very strong woman. Shakespeare’s women are strong, independent and intelligent. I think he was writing to honor her, the virgin Queen, who never got married and who took politics and her own responsibilities more seriously. The Princess is taking her responsibilities seriously in this play. But there are many scholars who will argue that with me.”

For this production, Kordos is setting the piece in the 1890s to keep it as a historic piece.

“The late 19th century sat well because of everything going on at the time, especially in France. The World Trade Exposition had just happened. The Eiffel Tower, the tallest building in the world at that time, was just built. You had all this amazing music. Tchaikovsky just completed ‘The Nutcracker Suite.’ Oscar Wilde was writing. It was this renaissance of art and culture. We’re about to start the women’s suffrage movement. This is an exciting time, and all the pieces just seemed to fit really well,” Kordos said.

The sets and period costumes will help set the look.

“Visually it will be a feast,” Kordos said. “Lighting and set design are working very hard together to visually stimulate us on so many levels throughout the entire show, which just adds to who these characters are.”

The cast includes 17 students. David Michael Fox, a senior performance major from Nebraska City, Neb., plays King Ferdinand.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with the other leading men in this performance because we get to show some real camaraderie on stage and have a lot of fun playing off one another,” Fox said.

Thomas Boyle, a senior performance major from Omaha, Neb., plays Don Adriano de Armado.

“Armado is a very big character and not the sharpest tool in the shed,” he said. “He’s vocal, theatrical and wears his heart on his sleeves, but he’s deceptively three-dimensional. He has secrets and desires just like everyone else. Armado is my first comedic role in a while, so I’m excited to connect with the audience. Pausing to wait for laughter to die down is one of the greatest joys in my life.”

Boyle said audiences can expect fun and feelings.

“It’s a slice of life. There’s no villain or world-ending incidents,” Boyle said. “This is a story about people and what is important to them.”

Fox said audiences should expect a fun Shakespearean show.

“It is full of intelligent and physical humor,” Fox said. “And although Shakespeare’s text is sometimes hard to understand, the actors are working hard to make sure the audience follows everything that is happening.”

The rhetoric and banter in the play is an important part of this piece.

“When you approach a Shakespearean text, you have to approach it like a piece of music,” Kordos said. “The tempo is there. It’s given to you. You cannot start to play a symphony and decide you’re going to change the tempo and move things around. It’s there, and you have to stay true to it. In this piece, there is a pace, and it moves quickly.”

Sometimes when people begin with Shakespeare, they want to slow the tempo down.

“The human ear then loses the train of thought,” Kordos said. “As long as the actor knows precisely what they are saying and why, if you hear it at this pace, it is no problem to follow. The lines of thought make sense. The wordplay they use is like a tennis match. We have characters that use the wrong words, and they poke fun at them for these malapropisms.”

Kordos received her Master of Fine Arts degree from The Academy for Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theatre through George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College. She has been a professional actor and director for more than 20 years and continues to teach Shakespeare workshops and acting classes.

Her own interest in Shakespeare was sparked by her initial fear of it.

“When I decided to go back to grad school to get my MFA, I had a little experience in Shakespeare, but felt out of my depth,” she said. “I decided to put my focus on classics and get solidly trained on Shakespeare and the classics. It was an intense, amazing, wonderful experience. I’ve never been so glad I made the right decision.”

One of her personal goals in life is to either direct or act in every play in the Shakespeare canon.

“This is one I have not done before,” she said. “I’ve done 17 of them.”

Fox said the students have enjoyed working with Kordos.

“She knows her stuff, and since this is my first time working on a Shakespeare play, she has not only been a great director, but an amazing resource for help in researching the text,” Fox said.

Kordos hopes audiences will have fun and enjoy the play.

“I hope a lot of these themes and these characters can resonate within themselves,” she said. “They can say, ‘Wow, what Shakespeare is writing about are people 450 years ago, and it’s still the same today.’ Over these ages, people have not changed—our wants, our desires, our fears and insecurities—they’re all the same. It’s still fresh, it has meaning, and they’re the same struggles we face today—women in the world of politics and power; societal levels we have to play with; our caste system and how you move up or not move up. That makes the world go round.”

Tickets are $16, $14 for faculty/staff and senior citizens, and $10 for students with ID and are available at the Lied Center Box Office (402) 472-4747 or (800) 432-3231 or one hour prior to the performance in the Temple Theatres Lobby. They are also available online at