Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Behind the Scenes of AS YOU LIKE IT

The Midsummer Shakespeare Company performed As You Like It in July. The teen company had lots of fun on stage and back stage. The Director, Madeleine Burke, set the play in 1930s Louisiana and has this to say about it:

Directors notes
by Madeleine Burke (pictured to the right with Katie Le Dain).

Every summer I am delighted by the journey that these student-actors and I take exploring one of Shakespeare's great plays. I am always thrilled by the discoveries and choices made and how perceptive the students are and how invested they become in the text and in the world of the play. This year, I decided we would visit Arden and delve into As You Like It. When choosing a concept for one of Shakespeare's plays, I think it is important to not impose on the text, but to find an environment and time that will speak to the themes and will allow the play to be flexible. I chose to set the play in the deep South in the 1930s, partly because I felt a resonance of Southern Gothic in the tangled relationships of Duke Senior and Duke Frederick (Duchess Francesca and Duchess Frederica in our production) as well as in that of the troubled brothers Orlando and Oliver. Two pairs of brothers in conflict and both pairs redeemed by the end of the play. I also wanted to find a green world that was beautiful, mysterious, idyllic and also dangerous -- and I thought the bayous of Louisiana would stand in perfectly for my vision of Arden. Music was also very important to creating the world of our play -- from the frenetic Dixieland jazz of the court to the traditional American folk songs of the pastoral world.
At its heart, As You Like It is about the discovery of love -- and love in many forms. Duchess Frederica has a twisted love for her daughter; Celia is the model of selfless love for a friend (and yet is very suspicious of romantic love); Silvius suffers unrequited love for his Phebe and Rosalind and Orland fall in love at first sight. But, what is remarkable about the play is that Rosalind is not content with love at first sight and she tests Orland to see if he can move beyond his picture of idealized love into a more truthful comprehension of what marriage and love entails. In this production, the student-actors were in agreement that Orlando's journey is as complex as Rosalind's and that he has a real choice to make, once he realizes that Ganymede is Rosalind. Is Rosalind's disguise and her testing of his love a deal-breaker for him? We decided that Orlando makes that realization well before the last scene of the play -- giving him the opportunity to decide whether this Rosalind should be 'his Rosalind.' Rosalind, Celia, Orlando and Oliver go through profound changes by their travels into Arden -- as are all of us who took this 5 week journey with them.

Backstage with the cast (left: the women of As You Like It; right: Celia and Orlando )

On stage in performance: (left to right & below) Orlando with the Duchess, Orlando at Court meeting Rosalind and Celia, Rosalind as Ganymede in the Bayou.

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