Preparations are underway for this year's production of Shakespeare in Yosemite, and the show promises to be groovy.
Working with students, Professors Katie Brokaw and Paul Prescott are developing a loose adaptation of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies. This version is set in 1969-70, to commemorate the first Earth Day as well as the early days of the environmental movement in America, when activist energy led to changes such as the Clean Water Act and the start of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It’ll take an environmental justice-oriented approach, highlighting the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on Black, Brown and Indigenous communities and honoring the importance of those communities in environmental movements,” Brokaw said. “It’s also highly musical, drawing inspiration from the 1969 soul, rock and folk scenes to create an original soundtrack that will be performed live throughout the show.”
The original “Love's Labour's Lost” tells the tale of the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to swear off the company of women for three years to focus on study and fasting. Their infatuation with the Princess of France and her ladies makes them break their oath. In the adaptation, with its title Americanized to “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” two bands — one all-female and the other all-male — are on a Yosemite songwriting retreat in 1969 and fall in love with each other, and with a world that urgently needs protection.
Though this year’s cast is on the smaller side, there are many students and some alumni involved in the production this year. At least 10 students are helping work on the script, direction and design, and many will have other roles including social media, sound and film. Most of the students are in Brokaw’s spring 2022 Theater and Ecology class.
The cast features students Cat Flores, Rena Johnson and Sofia Andom and alums Andrew Hardy and Tonatiuh Newbold, who now works in Yosemite National Park and starred in last year‘s film-only production of “Imogen in the Wild” with Andom. Park Ranger Marion Roubal is also in the cast, and there will be cameos from other Park staff.
The music is being composed by the students, who are also pulling together the wardrobe, mainly by scouring thrift stores, and are making props in an environmentally friendly way.
Shakespeare in Yosemite couldn't happen in person last year, but Brokaw said everyone hopes to be able to perform live this year, both in the park and at Playhouse Merced. They plan to film some performances and rehearsals, and if the pandemic prevents live performances, they will focus on the film.
As of now the plan is for one show at the Playhouse in mid-April, and several performances in the park near the end of April. Dates and other plans will be announced as they become available. Updates will be posted on the event webpage and on Instagram and Twitter: @yosemiteshakes.
Article by Lorena Anderson, UC Merced Newsroom