Can you laugh too much? Love too much? Can you dance too much? New School for Drama faculty member Casey Biggs doesn’t think so, as evidenced in his upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. The New School’s staging of one of the Bard’s wittiest and most profound comedies will be set in the passionate and sensual world of the Tango, using the dance as a metaphor for the character’s relationships, conflicts, and desires.
“Tango is a dance that is never ‘consummated,’ and Shakespeare never consummates these couples, not giving them the opportunity to move forward in their relationships,” explains Biggs, who directs the production. “They fall in love for all the right reasons, regardless of what plays out in the story. The women take the men to task for all their flaws, but still find in them that which makes them come alive, never following, but matching them, step-for-step.”
Biggs’ takeaway from Love’s Labour’s Lost is if you can dance a Tango together, you can have a successful life together. In the play, the King and his friends take an oath of celibacy in order to devote themselves entirely to scholarship, but the arrival of the visiting princess of France and her beautiful cohorts challenges their commitment.
The play is choreographed by Matt Grubler, a Bronze medal USA Tango champion and Strictly Tango Dance Company captain and instructor. For many of the actors, this is the first time working with choreographed dance, let alone with movements as precise as the Tango.
MFA acting candidate Jackie Schram, who plays the princess of France, likens the rehearsal process to wearing two hats at the same time. “It takes a lot of thought and energy to get Shakespeare’s words into your head, and then the style [of the movement] into your body,” she explains. “It’s the melding of the two that is interesting. At first it felt very unnatural, but now it’s second nature.”
In addition to the choreographed group numbers that are added and interspersed throughout the play, the dancing is also part of the actual scenes, which is an additional—but fun—challenge.
“The dancing is one of my favorite things,” says MFA acting candidate Joe Loper, who plays Boyete, the princess’ attendant. “Physical work, along with the heightened language, makes rehearsing the play more challenging. It’s also more freeing with the language, because we’re not thinking about it so much as we focus on the movement.”
The New School for Drama’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost runs February 20-22 at The New School for Drama Theater at 151 Bank Street in New York City. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances begin at 8:00 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are free, general seating, and reservations are recommended. To make reservations, call Ticket Central at 212.279.4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com.