Postcards from the beach
Durango High School stages Shakespeare

Katherine, as played by Ceilidh Cross, left, supports a fainting Maria (Mariah Pardini) as they tease the Princess of France (Katie Gottlieb) and her friend Rosaline (Valentina Craig) in a scene from Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" opening this weekend at Durango High School./ Photo by Charles Ford

by Judith Reynolds

Palm trees, deck chairs, sun umbrellas and a curving beach of sparkling white sand. That’s what you’ll see when Durango High School mounts its semi-annual tribute to Shakespeare. Everything’s fake, of course. A colorful ersatz beach sets the stage for one of the bard’s most frolicsome comedies. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” opens Fri., May 5, and runs two weekends.

“It’s an alternate reality,” Mona Wood-Patterson, director, said in an interview last week. “The stage is supposed to look like a postcard. There’s no real sand. The floor, like the sky, is just painted. Our student designer, Shae Elizabeth Orrick, painted the backdrop. Our set crew built a cabana. It’s really a fake, shallow world, just like the characters are not being real with their feelings.”

The idea of a beach came from two sources, Wood-Patterson said. “Spring break for teen-agers is a time for doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. They sometimes go wild. And a ‘beach’ captures the essence of youth. Summer lovin’.”

The story centers on a quartet of young men, the King of Navarre and his three friends. Time is passing, and they realize they’ve been partying long enough. They decide to get serious, give up girls and study hard – for three years. Their agreement, however, begins to disintegrate the minute they see a beautiful French princess and her three comely friends. All the guys want to dissolve the pact, but can’t admit it to each other. As they pretend to honor their mutual vow, flirtations, disguises, misplaced letters and shenanigans ensue. A number of other characters, including sober and supercilious adults, add spice to the action, “colorful denizens of beach life,” Wood-Patterson said.

“It’s all fun and games, and then there is that moment when everyone has to grow up – instantly. In the last few moments, Shakespeare’s comedy turns into drama. I like all the fun, and I like the shift at the end. It’s just what the students are facing at this moment in their lives – leaving adolescence behind and entering the adult world.”

To make the play more accessible to a mixed audience of adults and students, Wood-Patterson said she made considerable cuts.

“For example, there are a lot of contemporary references in the original text. So I either cut those or substituted something people would understand.” And she’s trimmed some lines here and there to shave down playing time.

As per tradition, Wood-Patterson and costumer Joann Nevils have color coded the pairs of young lovers. They will cavort in contemporary summer clothes, spaghetti-strap dresses for the girls and Hawaiian shirts for the guys. Technical Director Charles Ford has created a set design that incorporates a high-ceilinged, three-dimensional cabana, sheathed in straw matting, with Orrick’s postcard scene and big magnolia side panels. In addition, there will be occasional video projections on large screens to either side of the stage with power-point texts.

“And lots of music,” Wood-Patterson said. “Besides beach music, we have some original music by Angelica

Pozo-DesPortes. She’ll be playing the guitar as part of the cabana-and-beach scene.

“For the seniors, this is the last play they will be in. And the last line in the play is: ‘Youth away.’ We all cry at the meaning of this.” •



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