In rehearsal for AQ Theatre’s “As You Like It”

as-you-like-itFrom left to right: First-year Bryanna Lee (Celia), junior Justina Ouellette (Rosalind), and sophomore Lucas Isenga (Touchstone the Clown) “Swearing by their beards” and bantering together.

Story by America DeGraw, Reporter
Photo courtesy of America DeGraw

Quippy, clever, action-packed, romantic, and comical. These are all words that can be used to describe “As You Like It,” one of Shakespeare’s best known and highest acclaimed comedies. The play, which focuses on the bumbling love stories of Orlando and Rosalind (often disguised as a young man called Ganymede) and Celia and Oliver, is a wild ride that showcases the actors in a way only Shakespeare was capable of. There is true love, wrestling matches, despicable plots, witty clowns, and melancholy dukes, all adding up to a unique and laugh inducing production.

When I spoke with director Katherine Mayberry about adaptation of Shakespeare’s work for the modern audience, she gave an interesting perspective. “I really don’t think that Shakespeare’s plays need adaptation to appeal to modern audiences…The plays are really good stories, with a lot of fantastic humor.  To me, a large part of the reason these plays have survived is because they work so well in performance.”

 In other words, the play draws in the audience based on the masterfulness of the original story itself, and after watching a rehearsal, I can say first hand that the play is as immersive as she attests. Ms. Mayberry also made a point of mentioning her cast: “Our cast is really fantastic.  The ideas that they each have brought into rehearsal about their characters are helping to create an amazing production.”

I was lucky enough to attend the first full run through of Act 1 of the play, and during that time, spoke to several of the cast members. The first of whom was junior Tanner Kosten, who describes his main role of Silvius as a “shepherd in love.” He’s no stranger to the AQ stage either, having performed last season in “The Storm” and “Enchanted April.” His character brings an element of the lighthearted into the play, both in his goofy attitude, and his physical comedy, as he’s unafraid to look ridiculous on stage.

I also spoke to Junior Justina Ouellette, playing Rosalind who, in Ouellette’s words, “knows what she wants and goes after it.”

She says that Rosalind is very strong, but doesn’t always make the wisest choices when it comes to love. However, she made sure I knew that Rosalind was a real “bada–” who knows her own mind, and isn’t afraid to speak it. Ouellette is also a veteran to the AQ stage, having crewed several shows, as well as performing in “I Hate Hamlet” and “The Storm.” She’s looking forward to crossing Shakespeare off her theater bucket list, and says that this particular production is “not your average Shakespeare.”

Of course, this only brushes the surface of what this production has to offer. There are thirteen cast members total, many of whom play more than two characters during the show. Several of these characters have also been cast cross-gender, and the casting has been done with a careful eye for the parallels between characters and how challenging it may be for an actor to transition from one character to the next. The cross-gendered casting is the cherry on top of an already fantastic production.

The play, which will be AQ Theater’s first main stage production of the season, opens October 6 and runs through October 9. There will be three evening performances, starting at 8pm on October 6-8 and one matinee performance starting at 2pm on October 9. Tickets are $15.

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