Production is More Than a 'Labour' of Love'
For Edward Stern, directing the Penn State Centre Stage production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” has been a delightful process filled with passion for the theatre. In addition, he has thoroughly enjoyed the educational mission that comes along with a student production.
Stern considers himself fortunate for having had the opportunity to spend his entire career in the theatre. He recently retired from his position of producing artistic director at the renowned Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. During his 20-year tenure in Cincinnati, the regional theatre was awarded two Tony Awards. In 2004 it was named the Top Regional Theatre in the nation and won for Best Musical Revival for its production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” that found its way to Broadway in 2007.
A longtime friend and professional colleague of Dan Carter, producing artistic director for Penn State Centre Stage, Stern was happy to accept an invitation to direct one of Shakespeare’s more intriguing plays.
“This is not one of the most produced Shakespeare plays,” Stern said. “In fact in the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s language was considered too obscure, too oblique, and its ending too odd. Today’s audiences will absolutely go with this. A century ago the women characters were considered too strong.”
The play’s story centers around a group of men who decide to devote their lives to intellectual pursuits absent the company of women. Of course, they didn’t plan on the Princess of France arriving accompanied by three beautiful ladies in waiting. Will their sworn oath hold? Or will they give in to love and passion?
“I sincerely hope that local audiences will have a really terrific evening in the theatre,” said Stern. “I think they will be moved, surprised, and touched by the play’s ending.”
Stern explained that he did cut a few lines that seemed to get in the way of the story.
“Shakespeare was meant to be seen, not read,” Stern continued. “It’s not about all the bloody footnotes you have to read when you read the script. After all, it’s theater, not literature.”
While Stern believes “Love’s Labour’s Lost” presents significant challenges to his young cast, he is convinced they are “getting it. The process has been a joy.”
Next up for Stern is a trip to Cambodia and a production of “Oedipus Rex” at the Cincinnati May Festival. It is an opera with music by Stravinsky.
Collaborating with his student scenic designer has been very rewarding. Karl Jacobsen agrees.
The Master of Fine Arts candidate is in his second year of the design program at Penn State.
“Ed and I wanted to blur the edges of the theatre,” Jacobsen stated. “What is real? What isn’t? To accomplish that we focused on the works of surrealist painter René Magritte as well as the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island.”
Jacobsen found that working with Stern was a satisfying artistic collaboration. “It was interesting. It gave me a taste of how things will work in the real world. Most of our collaboration was done by telephone and e-mail.”
Why is he studying scenic design? “I am always creating new worlds,” he answered. “I am constantly playing in an imaginary world. It’s always like building a giant tree house.”