One noon hour some years back, I had the extraordinary luck to wander into Dale Luciano's drama in Western culture class at Southern Oregon University.

One noon hour some years back, I had the extraordinary luck to wander into Dale Luciano's drama in Western culture class at Southern Oregon University. The class explored great dramatic literature within its historical context. I was intrigued; I enrolled in the year-long class.

Dale also teaches directing and forms and meanings, a class he describes as an "ongoing experiment" that examines parallels between theater and major art movements in history. His theatre arts classes are challenging. He chooses exciting material and requires his students to process, communicate and create.

I met Dale at the Bloomsbury Coffee House. Dale directed Shakespeare's "Love's Labor's Lost," now playing at Southern University's Oregon Center Stage Theater. I have seen the production. It is elegant, exuberant, masterfully directed and thoroughly entertaining. I highly recommend it.

EH: What is it about "Love's Labor's Lost" that made you want to direct it?

DL: It's a wonderful choice for university production because almost all the characters are young. The play is about the moment in which young people realize life is more complicated than they thought it was going to be. It's also about young people realizing (as part of the beginning of the maturation process) how difficult it is to live up to vows and oaths. That seems awfully relevant to the culture right now, don't you think?

Most of the play is about the giddiness of falling in love. There is a lot of silliness and nonsensical stuff and some pretty broad farce. My assistant director, Curtis Goodman, was trained at the San Francisco Clown Conservatory and wanted very much to learn about Shakespeare. I wanted to learn more about clowning. We were constantly discovering very specific rhythms, word games, puns, incongruities, jokes and physical shtick from commedia dell'arte that are elements of a universal comedy. Everything from slapstick to Noel Coward is tossed into the mix.

One of the things I love about the play is that the ladies from France are very intelligent, witty and funny. They are silly and girlish at times but they are also very aware of their worth as women. At heart, they're very sophisticated and more mature than the men. In all his plays, Shakespeare does justice to women, but I think his perception of the French ladies here is really something.

It's been wonderful to watch the moment when the actors, many of whom have not had that much contact with Shakespeare, make the discovery, "This is really good. I get it now. Shakespeare knew what he was doing." It's been quite an adventure. Without diminishing anything about the play — it's not an easy text — I think we've made it funny and accessible in a way that I hope surprises people.

EH: There's so much excitement in the Theatre Arts Department. What is the magic? What's the draw?

DL: Finding a place for oneself in the highly collaborative art form of theater is a big part of what it's about, I think. We strive to work in as fully professional manner as we can, and many students appreciate the discipline required. Theater provides the best kind of liberal arts education. The time travel or research aspect has great appeal for many. The costume designer, Katie Nowacki, was in heaven designing this production for the Edwardian era, specifically 1908. It was an era we all wanted to visit and live in for a time. And we build almost everything so, for many, there's a craftsperson's direct, tactile sense of accomplishment.

"Love's Labor's Lost" will run at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through May 31. For tickets and information call, 552-6348.

Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She studied acting at The American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.