“We were going into the second week of Love’s Labour’s Lost when we had to cancel,” recalls Dane CT Leasure, artistic director at Rubber City Theatre – formerly the Rubber City Shakespeare Company – in Akron. “Before we shut down, we thought to offer a final live performance on Facebook by way of a phone at the back of the theater.
There were 12 friends and crew members in the house and Terry Teachout, the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, happened to be watching on Facebook. Here is what he had to say on his arts journal blog “About Last Night:”
“How does a New York drama critic spend his Friday nights when Broadway’s theaters are closed up tight? I don’t know about my colleagues, but I curled up on the couch with my laptop last week and watched a live performance in Akron, Ohio, of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Like most of America’s theater companies, Rubber City Theatre has since been shut down in the hope of containing the spread of the coronavirus, so it decided to live-stream via Facebook the final performance of its current production as a gesture of solidarity with everyone who knows how vital great art is in times of trial….
To be sure, the technical quality of the one-camera webcast was primitive—the picture was fuzzy and there was no ‘camerawork’ whatsoever. But that didn’t matter in the least: The play came through clearly, and that was all that mattered. Kelly Elliott’s modern- dress staging was satisfyingly simple and lively, and the handful of loyal audience members sprinkled throughout the company’s small auditorium were audibly pleased by the results. So was I, and I found myself asking as I watched: What am I getting out of this experience? Why am I so moved? Exactly what do masterpieces have to say to us at moments like these?
In Shakespeare’s case, the answer is easy enough. Even in a self-consciously artificial comedy like Love’s Labour’s Lost, there are moments of immediacy that reach across the centuries (and through the screen of your viewing device, whatever it may be) and make you sit bolt upright, stunned by their prescience. In my case, it was these lines spoken by Lord Berowne, one of King Ferdinand’s noble companions, that rang the bell of recognition: ‘To move wild laughter in the throat of death?/It cannot be; it is impossible:/Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.’ For of course it is possible, which explains why we most need the balm of comedy when the roof of the world seems to be crumbling over our heads.”
Not a bad way for Rubber City Theatre to go into hiatus.
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