Shakespeare in the Park returned for second year

Last year, 2,300 people filled Memorial Park over two nights for Arena Theater’s first year of Shakespeare in the Park. Another sizable crowd attended the event this year to see Shakespeare’s comedy, “Love’s Labours Lost” on Friday, Aug. 29 and Saturday, Aug. 30.
In the play, men from the court of Navarre fall in love with women from the court of France and attempt to win their hearts over by using their high intellect to each become the ideal man.
Director Mark Lewis said, “Love’s Labours Lost” is about guys who try to be perfect. Shakespeare greatly mocks academia as an identity, as fools shame the apparently wise in the play, making a point to see through pretension.”
Lewis said this play delivers a message that is important for Wheaton students to embrace.
A wide variety of actors, coming from different backgrounds, age groups and majors performed in the comedy.
Lewis said, “It was our producer Andy Mangin’s idea to bring our talented pool of grad students back to work with undergrads. God is working beautifully in the relationships of grads and undergrads.”
Wheaton alumus Ken Johnson ’77, who played the part of Sir Nathaniel, said, “It’s great to work with kids and alumni. You got it better in Wheaton than in community theater because there is a Christ-focus.”
Characters such as Costard the Clown, played by Chad Hauge ’06, mingled with the audience. An interpretation time-struck in the 1920’s allowed Shakespeare to feel contemporary while retaining an old-fashioned flair. Jazz music set the mood of the evening and helped connect the audience with lyrics.
“Because there are no … walls or ceilings, you have to somehow contain the attention of the people,” singer Maggie Ritchie ’07, said. “I picked songs that relate to what is going on in the play. Hopefully, the words will explain what is happening for the audience if they did not understand the lines.”
Likewise, the actors worked hard to connect with their audience in spite of a language barrier. Luke Vander Ploeg ’14, who played Boyet, said, “The audience will go with you; it’s just about being with people in the park.”
Ruthie Snoke ’11, cast as Maria, claimed that Shakespeare’s verse is natural, “like a heartbeat.”
Ken Johnson claimed that actors’ connecting with the characters simply requires “experiences in life that correlate with what your character goes through.” He added, “You find that we are not all too different; we can all open up, explore ourselves, and act different aspects of personality that are truly within us – whether or not we display them regularly in real life.”
Junior Wesley Peterson said, “Sharing truth is a lot of what theater is – God is truth. The magic of theater is that you can breathe God out as the audience breathes him in.”

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