Venturing into new and challenging spaces…
As You Like It was staged on a complex circular set, which was both beautiful and challenging to work on. The minimalist, multileveled stage designed by C. David Russell factored heavily into the design of the costumes. Costumes were designed with actor safety in mind, as they navigated the complex fight chorography in this unusual space.
Challenging performance conventions, and creating experiences which go beyond the walls/time of a performance…
Early in the design process the director, Shelley Delaney, and I agreed that this production of As You Like It would not be confined to a specific time or place. The magical Forest of Arden, where most of the play takes place, and the stoic Court of Duke Frederick, allowed us the freedom to challenge conventional historical periods and settings. We called this time period Military-Baroque, a style heavily influenced by modern military-themes and Baroque aesthetic.
The members of Duke Frederick’s Court wore the most elaborate and restrictive costumes with heavy military details. The members of the banished Duke Senior’s Court wore slightly less formal and distressed costumes that featured flower motifs. This “court in the forest” acted as a bridge between the worlds of Frederick’s Court and the pastoral Forest of Arden. The shepherds and farmers who inhabited the Forest of Arden wore rustic clothing, with heavy textures and simple embellishment.
The three-quarter thrust staging of AYLI required us to consider the audience’s presence throughout the design and build process as well as the rehearsal process. The nature of performing on a three-quarter thrust meant that a great deal of though went into designing costumes that would be interesting when viewed from all angles.
Capturing a sense of immediate social urgency and relevancy…
I came to view the exiled court as the Forest of Arden’s local Occupy Wall Street chapter. My modern interpretation created a way for me, and hopefully for the audience, to better connect to the characters living in the forest. I believe that creating subtle links to socially relevant subjects helps the audience to remain interested in the play.
Gender, sexuality, love and family are the main themes of As You Like It. Rosalind disguises herself as a boy and then revels in her new identity, courting Orlando, and becoming the object of Phebe’s affections while in her new male identity. The casting of an actress to play the role of Jaques, as well as the casting of other females in male ensemble roles, further emphasized the blurring of gender roles in this production.
Most importantly, As You Like It depicts two young women becoming the heroines of the story, setting off on an adventure and taking their destiny into their own hands. While looking for stories to share with my niece I realized how hard it is to find an adventure story that centers around a female lead. It’s even harder to find stories that depict female friendships, like the kind found in this play, written over four hundred years ago. Fiction is full of male heroes and duos like Butch and the Sundance Kid, while women are pitted against one another. I believe it is important to produce theater, like As You Like It, which has at it’s center, characters like Rosalind and Ceila.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Ohio University Theater Division, The Forum Theater
March 26-April 5 2014
Directed by Shelley Delaney
Produced by Michael Lincoln
Set Designer: C. David Russell
Costume Designer: Renee Garcia
Lighting Designer: Felicia Hall
Sound Designer: D.R.Baker
Stage Manager: Shiloh James
Technical Director: Aaron Cotreras