AQ Theatre makes Shakespeare proud with kickoff play


Story by Brooklyn Waggoner, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Aquinas College

All the world’s a stage for the actors who took part in AQ Theatre’s first show of the season: Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

It was directed by Katherine Mayberry, a theatre professional with numerous Shakespeare credits from all over West Michigan. Her experience was clearly displayed on the stage of our Performing Arts Center, premiering on Thursday, Oct. 8. Mayberry assembled a truly dynamic cast, from first-year John Van Weezel to fifth-year Marisa Besnard. Together, along with a very talented production staff, they have developed a wonderful piece of theatre.

As a lover of Shakespeare, and a theatre nerd myself, I was stoked to hear that “As You Like It” was going to be performed here at Aquinas. The story is one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, which combines all the great elements of family, love, and loyalty. We follow Rosalind and Celia as they venture out into the forests of Arden, exiled and disguised; Orlando, on the run from his older brother and an angry duke, as well as quite a few other colorful characters who add such great depth to the story.

While the language of Shakespeare’s works can be quite daunting for many, the “As You Like It” team successfully translated its meaning while preserving its eloquence. The audiences loved it, laughing aloud and reacting audibly to the show. Each actor took the words of the play upon themselves, and translated them clearly through other aspects of their performance. Brock Gabbert, a third-year student here at Aquinas, evoked strong reactions from the crowd in his distinct physical presence on stage. The audience was also treated, throughout the performance, to a few short ballads, performed most often by the very talented Christina Gonzalez, a second-year student.

Songs are not often a prominent part of Shakespeare’s plays, but this production made music a natural element to the show, setting it apart quite nicely. Another unique delight of this team’s portrayal of the play was in its rather upbeat style. Too often, productions of Shakespearean plays are weighted by somberness and angst, with little color. However, AQ Theatre left the melancholy to Jaques, played by senior Jessi Towell. Not only was the mood of the show uplifted by the actors, but also by the costumes, as well as by the set and lighting, which were designed to be more uplifting than the average Shakespeare play.

The costumes were colorful and layered nicely so there was always something different to look at. Purples and blues set off the young courtiers from the earth tones of the shepherds and shepherdesses, as well as the black and white attire of the older nobles.  All characters paired beautifully with the set, which was designed simply, and made use of limited space, simultaneously whimsical and purposeful, lending a flow to the actor’s movement about  the stage.

On the whole, if you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this show.  It was simply a very well done piece of theatre. “As You Like It” concluded with a matinee performance on Sunday, Oct. 9.

AQ Theatre has three more shows coming this year: “See What I Wanna See,” “Baby with the Bathwater,” and “Love and Information.” After experiencing “As You Like It,” I know that it is going to be a wonderful theatre season, and I hope that you get a chance to experience the talent we have here on campus. Bravo to the cast and crew of “As You Like It,” and bravo to Katherine Mayberry for bringing Shakespeare to life in this first production.

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