Play On! is the official podcast of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The episode transcribed below features an interview Dr. Travis Curtright and Mary Curtright about love (both in Shakespeare’s plays and the lives of those that perform his works), their production research process, and what they lovingly call “troupe life.”
Emily: In this episode, we’re going to talk a bit about love. A couple of months ago, I had the chance to talk to old friends who know a lot about the power of Shakespeare in love — Dr. Travis and Mary Curtright from Shakespeare in Performance, a collegiate Shakespeare troupe at Ave Maria University in Southwest Florida. They answered my questions about love in Shakespeare’s text and how that permeates into the lives of the performers… Dr. Curtright is the Founder and Director of Shakespeare in Performance. Mary Curtright, his wife, has been instrumental to the project from its inception around 8 years ago… Not too long ago, I was in Shakespeare in Performance with the Curtrights and that experience is a large reason I’m here at Utah Shakes now. So thank you to my “ShakesFam” down in Florida. And shoutout to all the Curtright kids, but especially Henry for keeping me updated via postcard.
Emily: What are some examples of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories?
Dr. Travis Curtright: My favorite is As You Like It. Think of the plot as the love-at-first-sight story meets the story of how friends come to realize that they love each other. In As You Like It, Rosalind and Orlando fall in love at their first meeting, but this encounter leaves Orlando tongue-tied. He says, “What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue? I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.” Orlando idealizes Rosalind like Romeo does Juliet, but the difference is that Orlando is so moved that he cannot speak. So, Rosalind assumes the disguise of a man and befriends Orlando. They learn to speak to one another without the pressures of love and develop a close relationship of friendship, which later includes Rosalind’s revelation of her true identity. When the god of marriage descends at the end of the play, he tells Rosalind and Orlando, “You and you no cross shall part.” I think the reason why is that they’re both friends and lovers.
Emily: Mary, do you have a favorite duo in Shakespeare?
Mary Curtright: Well, I just don’t like having favorites. Do you really have a favorite child or a favorite book or a favorite movie or a favorite piece of furniture? I mean, really it’s whatever you’re experiencing at the moment. When we’re in production, that’s my favorite because I’m studying the language and observing my husband directing the students. I’m listening to it and pondering it, and that’s my favorite. Otherwise, I don’t have a single favorite duo.
Emily: So, when we did The Taming of the Shrew, Kate and Petruchio were your favorite?
Mary Curtright: Yes, in maybe a negative example, but there’s brilliance in the language to consider in that play, as well as humor. So yeah, that was my favorite at the time.
Emily: I get it. It’s easy to fall in love with whatever you’re spending all your time doing. If you don’t fall in love with it, it really shows in the final product.
Mary Curtright: You know, I do love Much Ado. I love the relationship between the two of them, but perhaps maybe because I’ve been thinking about Macbeth more, it’s funny that you mentioned Macbeth as the only good marriage shown in Shakespeare because — isn’t that just cynical that as we grow older, we start thinking about the power couple (laughs) — I’ve been thinking about Macbeth a lot lately.
Emily: What about the worst? What are some of the worst examples of love in Shakespeare?
Dr. Travis Curtright: (laughs) Okay. So, there’s a type of love story I wouldn’t recommend. Here, I’m thinking of Shakespeare’s version of the “secret crush” story. In secret crushes, she likes him but won’t say so because she fears he doesn’t like her, but then, of course, he does feel the same way about her and is afraid to say so. Eventually, the truth comes out and we have a big, happy ending. Now, Shakespeare’s take on this is very different. In All’s Well That Ends Well, a character named Helena is in love with a cad named Bertram despite Bertram’s questionable moral character. He’s a social class above her and she has loved him since her youth, but secretly because she’s the daughter of a doctor rather than of aristocratic birth. She never reveals her love until she becomes much older. Shakespeare’s twist is that Helena’s beloved never hid romantic feelings for her. In fact, he never loved her, so Helena has to employ a bed trick — she gets creative. This is a scheme whereby one woman substitutes for another woman unbeknownst to the man. The bed trick works and the play does conclude with a marriage, but we can wonder if this is a happily ever after ending. The title of the play could become a question: All’s well that ends well… Does it?
Emily: What do Shakespeare’s depictions of these different types of love provide for the audience?
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