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Wilton’s High Mowing takes on “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • High Mowing School in Wilton will have a performance of Shakespeare Thursday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., in the Big Room at High Mowing. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

With a week to go until opening night, the juniors at High Mowing School in Wilton are rushing to put the final touches on their class production of one of Shakespeare’s most complex comedies: “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” In the Big Room at High Mowing, the cast works to pin down their lines Tuesday morning. In the artist’s studio, other students paint scenes to serve as a backdrop, and the director and her student assistant hurry to finish costumes in time to have a dress rehearsal before the students put on a full performance on Feb. 21.

It’s tradition at High Mowing School for the juniors to take a few weeks each year to tackle the Bard and put on a performance of one of Shakespeare’s great works. Whether it’s taking the stage, designing lighting, painting sets or helping with costumes, every student from the 11th grade is somehow involved.

This year, the class has taken on “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” one of Shakespeare’s lesser staged plays. The intent was to give the audience — and the actors — something they may have not seen before. And the students have been rising to the challenge, said Director Wendy Bruneau, despite recent snow days cutting in to the precious little time they have left to put the finishing touches on their performance.

Another reason they chose “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is that the play can support a large cast and has multiple parts for women, explained Bruneau. The play is a convoluted comedy that follows the romancing of four separate couples, the King of Navarre and three of his lords and the Princess of France and three of her ladies. The four men have vowed to forsake women for three years to devote themselves to study, that is until they meet the Princess and her ladies.

“It’s like a classic comedy, with the four couples,” explained student Hannah Burnham of Newark, Vt. in between scene rehearsals at High Mowing on Tuesday. “The difference between this comedy and the others [Shakespeare is know for] is the entire time the girls spend the whole play making merciless fun of the guys,” she added with a laugh.

Unlike many of Shakespeare’s other comedies, there are no marriages in the end, with the four couples agreeing to wait a year to see if their love remains true.

“In a Waldorf school, it’s a blast,” said Bruneau of directing teenagers in a Shakespeare production. “Most of them have been involved with class plays since they were in the first grade. And this year they’re more cooperative than ever.”

Unlike many traditional schools, High Mowing’s theater productions are treated as part of the school day, and the entire grade participates in either an acting or technical aspect of the play. The kids spend more than two hours a day preparing for a single day of performance in front of an audience.

Many of the students who have been in High Mowing’s Waldorf-style learning system have been involved in this type of inclusive performance previously. Waldorf is an alternative educational model that stresses the integration of academic, practical and artistic pursuits.

“Having a play block every year strengthens the class,” said student Will Wright of North Falmouth, Mass. “We get to know each other. We don’t just sit together in the same classroom, we get to communicate together, which is good for a community.”

Oliver Durnan of Wilton said he was glad to be able to stretch his wings with a play that isn’t predictable.

“I think it’s good to get away from the plays that everyone knows, like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” he said.

The challenge of doing Shakespeare, especially a play that’s not well-known, is part of the fun, said Elsbeth Pendelton-Wheeler of Peterborough. Breaking down the meaning of the words is difficult, but needing the class to work together to understand the play and give it meaning on the stage makes it more interesting, she said.

“At first, you don’t know what’s going on, and you don’t understand it,” she said. “But the more you perform it, the more it makes sense.”

Her fellow actor, Bekk McGowan of Wilton, agreed. For McGowan, this isn’t the first time he’ll be taking the stage in one of Shakespeare’s plays, having appeared in several dating as far back as elementary school. They’re more complicated and take a deeper look to understand the material, he said, but that’s just an opportunity to test the acting skills of the class, he said. Even with the antiquated language, if it’s acted competently, the audience should be able to understand the plot, he said.

The High Mowing School juniors will present two performances of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Both will be held on Feb. 21 in the Big Room at High Mowing, with a matinee at 1:30 p.m. and an evening show at 7 p.m. There is no charge for admission.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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