In a rendition that speaks to the college experience, the College’s Theater and Dance Department premiered a take on Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” yesterday. It boasts an array of performers, including the Polar Bear Dance Swing Club, students and even professors.

 Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen, the sixteenth-century play has been adapted to a 1960s collegiate setting and follows a group of fraternity brothers who, in the pursuit of their studies, decided to abandon the idea of love. In the story’s unfolding, however, the young men find themselves enamored, once again, with a group of women in a sorority. 

“On the surface it feels pretty light and farcical but in several places it also has a heaviness to it. That’s the idea of “Love’s Labour’s Lost”—it’s not a traditional romantic comedy,” said Aaron Kitch, associate professor of English, who acts in the play. “Even in the sonnets that are read aloud, that are supposed to be exaggerations and overly enthusiastic expressions of love, you can still hear some moments of deep insight, and I think that’s pretty incredible to have both things going on at the same time.”

Alongside Kitch, Professor of English and Cinema Studies Aviva Briefel acts as a professor in the show, an experience that—despite hitting close to home—has still proved challenging. 

“Anytime you’re teaching something to someone there’s a certain performance to it,” Briefel said. “Not that I’m being fake or pretending to be someone else, but in order to keep people interested, in order to keep myself interested and in order to keep the material alive, I think it involves a certain degree of acting. What’s different about acting in a play is that you’re taking on a different character, and that’s what’s been really new for me.”

Briefel notes that working under Killeen’s direction has provided a unique experience to learn  about teaching from the other side. She admires Killeen’s energy, organization and ways of motivating students.

In its incorporation of various student groups and professors, the production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” has provided a community of collaboration. Most notable, said Kitch, is the opportunity to work with students on a common ground and outside the scope of academia. 

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch [the students] in action,” Kitch said. “It’s humbling. It’s a chance to interact with students in a meaningful way outside of the classroom. The nice thing about Bowdoin is that all the professors wear different hats and get to interact with the students in different forums.”

Katie Randall ’16, co-president of the Bowdoin Polar Bears Swing Dance Club and a dancer in the show, said that the air of inclusivity among all cast members has been a focal point in the production of the show. 

“There was always a possibility that it would end up being dancers versus actors and director,” said Randall. “But we’ve been able to really weave it in and now it really does feel like a whole community of cast. And putting it in the ’60s makes it a lot more accessible—most of the time we don’t even have to act...There’s a lot of joy in it.”

Chosen by Killeen in remembrance of the 400-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” promises to resound with Bowdoin students in its exploration of the universal themes of Shakespeare in the context of a modern world.

“We have the benefit of 400 years of production to consider what worked and what didn’t work,” Killeen said. “The goal is, fill the text with life again for a contemporary audience. And I believe we’ve succeeded in that. I can’t presume to know what the playwright would have thought, but I try to work with him in mind, hoping that he would be pleased with what we’ve done.”