A new spin on Shakespeare

A new version of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” combines dialogue from all of Shakespeare’s plays.

by Jackie Renzetti

When three playwrights wanted to revamp Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” they turned to the Bard’s other work.

Writers Dominique Serrand, Steven Epp and Nathan Keepers of the Moving Company, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit theater company, retained Shakespeare’s original plotline of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and removed its dialogue to make room for lines from each of the playwright’s pieces.

Serrand directs the show, while Epp and Keepers play the characters of Don Armado and Moth, respectively. The Moving Company has already performed the piece for a three-week run in Louisville, Ky., and it will open in Minneapolis this weekend.

“It’s one of [Shakespeare’s] first plays, and you can feel that he’s still sort of young as a playwright,” Epp said. “I think it’s easier to take liberty with it when it’s not something that’s as beloved and known.”

Scholars cite the original play for its pedantry and numerous classical allusions to literature or academia. But because those references don’t resonate with modern audiences, the company’s writers said, those sections were axed for the new piece to make room for more character development.

“It’s an early play, so it’s not quite as fleshed out as some of the other ones later in [Shakespeare’s] career,” Keepers said.

The co-writers erased some minor characters but kept 11 main ones.

“I think [the characters] ended up being thinner in the original and we kind of beefed them up a little bit,” Keeper said.

The storyline remains the same — the King of Navarre and his three followers decide to live a celibate, scholarly life after losing a war with France. However, the Princess of France arrives with her three followers, and four couples form among the eight. The plot shows a mix of love stories between older and younger couples. Meanwhile, a love triangle brews between two clownish characters, Moth and Armado, and a wench-like character, Jaquenetta.

Epp and his co-writers made each love story more specific to the couples and added more depth to the plotline.

“What we found beautiful was this journey of the lovers, and it’s the passions of the hearts in all ages and shapes and sizes and forms, and that’s really what we wanted to focus on,” Epp said. “’Cause Shakespeare, he does love stories better than anyone.”

Over the course of a year, Serrand, Epp and Keepers searched Shakespeare’s plays to find the right material to fit into specific moments within the frame of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

“It’s kind of endless,” Epp said. “I mean, you could go on forever and find a better line or more language to come from the play; it’s a little bit hard how to know when to stop. It was just a lot of reading and looking and cross-referencing.”

The co-writers worked with a dramaturge who specialized in Shakespeare to ensure they used the correct language and retained the iambic pentameter, ultimately aiming to keep the integrity of the Bard’s work.

“So when you hear it, it sounds like a Shakespeare play, but for people that know Shakespeare, it’s not a play that you’ve ever seen and there’s all these things that sound familiar,” Epp said.

Though he refrains from calling the piece a “greatest hits” version, he said the concept of the play is similar to a highlight album of a famous artist.

“It’s really a celebration of Shakespeare and it’s a celebration of love,” Epp said.


What: “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

Where: The Lab Theater, 700 N. First Street, Minneapolis

When: Nov. 21-Dec. 21

Cost: $22-32