Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage.

Shakespeare, As You Like It

This summer I had the horrible misfortune of attending Christopher Owens’ production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. This isn’t to say that I dislike “Love’s Labour’s Lost”; I am a fan of all of The Bard’s plays. It isn’t a sign that I abhore Shakespeare Festivals; I’ve attended them in several states and always enjoyed them. It also isn’t an indication of my opinion of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival (though it is not as professional, nor as amazing as the Illinois Shakespeare Festival). No, it is more a reflection of the odious combination of Christopher Owens, the director of the VSF this year, and the previously mentioned ingredients.

You see, for some reason Chrisopher Owens, a show business nobody, thinks he is more brilliant than one of history’s greatest playwrights. Instead of putting on the production as it was intended, Mr. Owens made several monumentally bad alterations to the play. First, and least severe, he decided to “update” the play by setting it in 1910. Ok… I suppose that could work, but why? While Mr. Owens makes some vague limp comments about artistic sentiment and “period of innocence” I can’t help but wonder why he thought his setting was so much better than the original year of 1597? No matter, the worst is yet to come.

Second, and far more severe is the fact that Mr. Owens replaced all of the poetry in the play with songs from the early part of the 20th century, in effect, substituting pop trash for poetic treasures. The changes were jarring, obvious, and utterly ruined the play. To make matters worse, Mr. Owens then went through and cut large sections of the play entirely, declaring them irrelevant. Thank you Mr. Owens, but no thanks. You are not smarter than Shakespeare, so please don’t go butchering the work of a far more successful director and writer.

When asked about his changes by the Daily Press, Mr. Owens had this to say:

I think Shakespeare was trying to show off a bit, with lots of Latin references and different rhyming styles… It’s very verbose

Yes, Mr. Owens, plays by Shakespeare are verbose. He was a master of words and wrote very language driven plays. Most of us don’t think he was “showing off” but that he was attempting to entertain us with clever word choice, diction, and humor. Perhaps Shakespeare is too subtle for you to understand? You seemed to indicate as much in the program for the performance when you called Love’s Labour’s Lost a terrible play. If it was so terrible, why did you produce it? Or were you not aware of Shakespeare’s numerous other works?

Please Mr. Owens, leave Shakespeare alone. I understand that you “artistic” types like to try and justify your self importance by changing everything you can get your hands on but please, for the love of God, and all that is holy, don’t change a Shakespearean play during a freaking Shakespeare Festival! We’re coming to the festival for Shakespeare’s masterful plays, not your amateur drivel. In parting, I leave you with a quote from Shakespeare’s play All’s Well that Ends Well:

Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.

-Angry Midwesterner