An evening of Shakespeare sounds wholly academic and (in some cases) frightening to most University students not willingly- immersed in literature or theater. The reading of prose and “olde-fashioned” language is connotatively determined as difficult to understand and as attractive to decipher as the scrawled note on one’s car apologizing for denting the back bumper.
However, when taken to the stage, Shakespeare’s work becomes enlightening among all audiences.
Given scenery, movement, music and other designs, the Bard possesses visual wit, action, romance, despair – elements all the more enticing to audiences who find dullness in the words upon the page.
West Chester University’s Theater Department will be performing two different Shakespeare-affiliated works near the end of March:
“As You Like It” and “Love’s Fire.”
The two plays will be produced in repertory, meaning the shows will rotate each night during a ten-day period.
The performance dates for each are as follows:
“As You Like It”
Friday 3/19: 8 p.m.
Saturday, 3/20: 2 p.m.
Sunday, 3/21: 2 p.m.
Thursday, 3/25: 7:30p.m.
Thursday 3/18: 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 3/20: 8 p.m.
Wed., 3/24: 7:30 p.m.
Friday, 3/26: 8 p.m.
Though most are familiar with the term “love triangle,” “As You Like It” defies all geometric explanations of the complexity of love.
Written between 1599 and 1600, the play is a pastoral comedy, meaning the focus is centered on various love plots in a rural setting.
Much of the interaction between the characters comes about as chance encounters in woods, and so there is often a whimsical feel behind the play and the interaction of the characters.
Dr. Leonard Kelly has chosen to transform Shakespeare’s Middle-Age “As You Like It” into 1960’s-set show.
The production will maintain the language of the original play, but will have a more psychedelic and resonant feel.
Dr. Kelly has also created a unique theme of gender identity which he is exhibiting in the play.
Though there is a sense of gender switching used for a disguise already written in the script, Dr. Kelly has added to this sense of gender confusion by casting actors and actresses in roles of their opposite sex.
“We’re exploring a lot of the issues of identity and transformation, particularly how they are influenced by gender, and the construct of love – what is love all about,” Kelly said, in a video promoting the show on the Facebook Event page.
“For example, how does someone present themselves – is that their true identity.
“Eventually through the course of the play we see all these constructed identities stripped away, fallen away, or vanished.”
“As You Like It” is an origin for a few phrases that have held steady throughout centuries.
The phrase “too much of a good thing” was first penned in the play, as was one of Shakespeare’s most referenced metaphors of “all the world’s a stage.”
This line starts off a monologue reciting the seven stages of human life, as told by a rather mildly unhappy character, Jacques.
Past critics of the play have felt that the comedy lacks the refined quality of Shakespeare’s other works, yet the play is still widely popular and respected.
One rough theory among critics is that “As You Like It” was created as a crowd-pleaser, and so was titled “As YOU Like It.”
Originating from national repertory theater The Acting Company, “Love’s Fire” is a concept of dramaturge Anne Cattaneo’s, come to life.
Cattaneo suggested pairing selections from Shakespeare’s sonnets of love with select playwrights, who were to use their assigned work of the Bard’s as inspiration for a modern, one-act play.
No playwright could gain insight from another, as all of the plays had the same deadline.
What resulted were seven very contemporary plays that showcase both Shakespeare and the individual playwright’s style.
Though each one-act is composed with themes of love, each play is drastically different from the next, exposing raw concepts through Shakespearean inspiration.
Directed by Dr. Emily Rogge, the WCU production of “Love’s Fire” promotes the concept of “inspiration throughout.”
The idea of each playwrights forming their own expressions of Shakespeare’s sonnets will only be one of the ways in which the audience is able to identify and comprehend the insight of the production.
“The challenge was to connect it so that it wasn’t just a series of skits, it was a whole evening,” said Rogge.
The “stage” for “Love’s Fire” will be interactive in a new way to each play within the production.
With the help of WCU graduate Topher Cusumano (Assistant Director), Rogge is creating a set that conveys the inspiration behind each piece.
The set is also transportable, almost as a requirement.
Due to switching shows each day, the set of “Love’s Fire” is built on top of the set of “As You Like It,” and will be struck after each performance.
“Love’s Fire” will be performed with three sides of audience seating. The fourth side will feature a jazz trio of WCU students.
Dr. Mark Rimple of the music department has composed and arranged the music for the show, which is heavily incorporated throughout the production.
The students involved in the jazz trio are Julie Hall (piano), Charlie Muench (bass) and Ryan Connors (percussion).