A young director comes of age with a coming-of-age story at Shakespeare & Company

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LENOX — Director Kelly Galvin can trace her career path's beginnings to the six years she spent instructing students at Lenox Memorial High School during Shakespeare & Company's Fall Festival of Shakespeare.

"That's really how I got interested in directing, actually, was directing in the Fall Festival," she said on a recent Friday afternoon. "That's how I realized that that's what I really wanted to do as a theater artist."

The Elmira, N.Y., native had a "small interest" in directing when she first arrived at the Lenox company to participate in its acclaimed winter acting workshop. But her Fall Festival years (2008-2013) shifted her focus. In 2010, she directed "Love's Labor's Lost" at the student training and performance program. This summer, she has another opportunity to helm the early William Shakespeare comedy, directing a production with another young group that will run through Aug. 18 at The Dell at The Mount.

"It's such a great play to do with young people, whether that's high school students or this ensemble we have here, [which] ranges in age from, I think, 22 to 32," she said from a table overlooking The Dell, noting that "Love's Labor's Lost" is a "coming-of-age" story.

In the play, the King of Navarre (Rylan Morsbach) and three lords — Berowne (David Bertoldi), Longaville (Madeleine Rose Maggio) and Dumaine (Devante Owens) — have vowed to forgo indulgences for three years to pursue lives of study. They must, for instance, shun women's company and thoughts of love; consequently, the King of Navarre requires women to remain outside his court. But when the Princess of France (Rory Hammond) arrives with her companions — all female — the folly of the king's plan is on full display. The concept of social constraint isn't alien to young performers, according to Galvin.

"What I learned at Lenox is how much the high school students can just completely connect with the idea of needing to release out of the structures that are holding them and play and have fun and figure out who they want to become through joy and through connection with the world instead of separation from the world," she said.

Technology has made it easier to shut oneself off from in-person interactions.

"I think right now, social media, as the world seems to get smaller, how do we deal with that? How do we deal with connecting with each other? How do we deal with the fact that sometimes we're only talking to people on a computer?" Galvin said.

Those are some questions Galvin hopes audiences will consider at The Mount, where Shakespeare & Company performed regularly until the 2001 opening of its Kemble Street headquarters. [Shakespeare & Company returned to The Mount in 2013 with the first of its now-annual summer Dell productions, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"]. Galvin visited The Mount for the first time that year with her grandmother. Galvin, 14 at the time, took in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Coriolanus."

"To me, that was my introduction to Shakespeare and this world, so it feels like one of those moments where things are coming full circle for me as an artist," she said.

The 2007 Wellesley College graduate received her MFA in directing from Boston University last year. (This past fall, she directed WAM Theatre's "The Last Wife.") She describes her leadership style as collaborative but also forthright.

"Everyone who's involved [in this play] is super talented and ready to be here, but we do have actors who have been working with Shakespeare & Company for 10 years and actors who are still in training. So, the demands are large, and it's important for me to be meeting everybody where they are and helping them achieve the level of work that they're ready to achieve," she said.

Their open-mindedness was apparent during rehearsals.

"They'll try anything," Galvin said. "They're funny. They're not afraid to look silly, which is good, because this play can get very silly in moments."

The director said that summer camp served as inspiration for some of the hilarity.

"When it gets to that point in summer camp where everyone's falling in love and everyone's running around playing Capture the Flag and hiding in corners and making out, it kind of feels like the play," she said.

But there are also serious undertones to "Love's Labor's Lost." Shakespeare's portrayal of men and women provokes conversations about gender equality in contemporary society. Played by Rory Hammond, the Princess of France in this production will embody someone who isn't afraid to buck her culture's gender norms.

"We're thinking of her as a young Queen Elizabeth type. She's ambitious. She doesn't feel like she needs to get married. She's not necessarily interested in that, but the political and social pressure for her to do that, to do things the way they're always done, is really strong," Galvin said. "None of us felt that that was a very distant idea for us."

Galvin was "inspired by but not slavish to" the idea of an Elizabethan theater. A curved stage occupies the bottom of a hill, though surprises are bound to arise in its surrounds: The Dell, replete with green via a grassy knoll and arborous backdrop, serves as a fitting host for "Love's Labor's Lost" because the action occurs entirely in the King of Navarre's park.

"The connection with nature is really important in this play — that as the characters start to be outside and be forced to be outside, they start to reconnect with their own sense of mischief and play and connection to the earth," she said. "It's like, the boys want to be inside with their noses in the books all day, but when they finally have to get outside, see the sun and feel the air, everything starts to change for them."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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