All The World’s a Stage…

Kaitlin Mahar

Upon stepping into Bucknall Theater for the University of New Haven Theater Department’s production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which ran from April 21-23, one almost wonders if they are in the right place. From setting Shakespeare lyrics to modern melodies, such as that of “Jolene,” brightly colored set pieces, the comedy hardly felt like it was written centuries ago by William Shakespeare, who would have celebrated his 400th birthday Saturday.

Duke Senior’s court prepares to defend the Forest of Arden in a scene of As You Like It  (Photo by Cassie Washington)
Duke Senior’s court prepares to defend the Forest of Arden in a scene of As You Like It
(Photo by Cassie Washington)

Set in France, the play tells the story of Rosalind (played by Rose-Emma Lambridis), the daughter of the exiled Duke Senior (played by Jazmin Jeanbaptiste) and her romance with Orlando (played by Greg Pease), who has left his home due to the malicious treatment at the hands of his brother, Oliver (played by Michael Kennedy). Soon, Rosalind is, too, exiled, like her father, by her uncle, Duke Frederick (played by Amanda Sigan), causing Rosalind to flee to the Forest of Arden with her best friend and Frederick’s daughter, Celia (played by Katie McGoff), and the court jester, Touchstone (played by Leann Boisvert).    There, Rosalind disguises herself as a man, “Ganymede,” while Celia disguises herself as a poor woman, “Aliena,” while Duke Senior and his followers serve as a band of singing and dancing do-gooders in the forest whilst advising Orlando and Oliver’s melancholy brother, Jaques (played by Joshua Dill). Throw in a few cases of mistaken identity and plenty of bawdy humor, and you have a solid evening of entertainment.

Director and UNH Theater Department head Jessica Brater, along with her assistant director, sophomore Angelina Meccariello, spearheaded acompletely out-of-the-box rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, proving that the bard’s words and stories are not only still relevant to today’s audience, but also easy to customize them in a variety of ways. From two-dimensional cardboard costumes (designed by Karen Boyer, whose creative prowess was previously seen in productions like School for Wives and Psycho Beach Party), to the three dimensional forest of Arden brought to life by Theater Program set designer Carolyn Mraz, the entire cast and crew created not just a story, but an entire world that simply enveloped the audience. These elements helped not only modernize the age-old story, but also helped both the audience and the actors better comprehend Shakespeare’s words.

“We played around a lot with the physicality of each person, and being consistent with it throughout the show, which was a challenge but ultimately helped when dealing with Shakespeare’s language,” said sophomore Erica Quadvlieg, who played “Phoebe” in the production.

“The process of performing Shakespeare is different from the process of any other play. There is such a heavy focus on the language. But that’s very important, because Shakespeare is essentially a different language. As difficult as it was, all the work was worth it once we performed the play for an audience. Even though Shakespeare can be hard to follow, the audiences have really seemed to enjoy what we’ve put on the stage,” Kennedy agreed.

And it wasn’t just the audience who enjoyed themselves; the entire production incorporated the talents of not only the student actors and crew members, in addition to Brater, but also students and even University faculty and staff, allowing the play to fully be a fun community affair. Dr. Margaret Savilonis’ Dramaturgy class helped Savilonis, who served as the dramaturg of the show, advised the actors on the production. During the production itself, a different faculty member of the University, including Dean Lourdes Alvarez, Marty O’Connor, Jason Degroff, and even President Stephen Kaplan donned a ceremonial flower crown and served as impromptu wedding officiants in the final marriage scene of the play for each show

“It was privilege to be a very, very small part in such an extraordinary production,” said O’Connor. “Our students and our faculty have done the University proud. The Bard himself would be pleased with this production.”

Both faculty and students were thoroughly impressed with the performance. “It was good to see the play put on in a way that was new and different, without seeming as though it was trying too hard,” said senior Michael Quick.

Thanks to the hard work and impeccable talent both the students and faculty members who brought this production to life, this performance of As You Like It was certainly not one to be missed; chances are, Shakespeare was probably rolling in his grave for having missed it himself.