"As You Like It"...As It Was
Published on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 18:20
A room in the Henkels Academic Building at Ave Maria University might not look much like the historic Globe Theater in Britain, but much of the on-stage performance of As You Like It in April will harken back to the original performances of The Bard's romantic comedy.
AMU's student acting troupe, Shakespeare in Performance, will stage five performances of As You Like It April 19-22 in an "originalist" manner that tries to remain true to the practices of staging, theater space, rhetoric and metrics that would have been employed in the early 1600s. All performances are open to the public although seating is limited and must be reserved in advance See details at the end of this article. Right, Zachary Harned as Orlando and Vanessa Tompkins as Rosalind.
The performance is a capstone project for a theater course taught by Dr. Travis Curtright, a Renaissance scholar who trained professionally at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. Dr. Curtright also directs the play.
"Dr. Curtright has the understanding of an artist and of a professor," said Zachary Harned, who plays the protagonist, Orlando. An experienced actor in his own right, having played in a Naples Players' production of Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Harned called the project "one of the best productions I've ever been in."
The original staging practice employs what is known as a "thrust stage," which extends into the audience on three sides, allowing for greater audience and actor interaction. The thrust stage allows audiences an opportunity to see the actors from several different vantage points, depending on where they are seated.
In Shakespeare's day, actors were accustomed to speaking directly to audience members with the house lights up, and so universal lighting will be used in the performance to heighten the audience-actor interaction, which Dr. Curtright has advised the students to encourage.
"Our performances include audience involvement," he said. "An actor might speak to an audience member directly, or single someone out by asking him or her to hold a prop, or even imagine the audience as part of our scenery. How audiences react differ from night to night but they always add to our show by becoming part of it."
The students practiced this type of up-close audience interaction through what Dr. Curtright called "Flash Mob Shakespeare." Students went into public spaces—offices, coffee shops, pubs, the student cafeteria—to perform scenes, speaking their lines to other characters but also to any bystanders who happened to be observing them.
The experience was part of the actors' training in voice, rhetoric and meter, which was the result of analyzing Shakespeare's rhetorical devices, diction, and metrical patterns.
"Each character has a different pattern, a different color scheme, and the only way you figure it out is by analyzing it and stepping into it," said Vanessa Tompkins, who plays the female lead of Rosalind. (Left, Miss Tompkins is on the right with Andrea Alphin in the role of Celia.)
"What I love most about acting is getting to know someone else and then becoming that someone else, traveling to the world of that character," she added. "You're not only putting on an "outfit," you're putting on a character with flesh and blood."
In an attempt to recreate the responsibilities of an Elizabethan acting troupe, students also have been responsible for everything from costuming to performing music in the production.
Although so many of the staging practices have their roots in the original production, there is, however, one major difference from what theater-goers would have seen in the 17th century. The female characters are actually played by women – something unheard of in Shakespeare's day.
AMU student Shirley Anghel contributed to this article.
As You Like It will be performed the nights of April 19, 20 and 21 and two matinee performances Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22. For evening performances, doors open at 7:15 and will be shut promptly at 7:30 p.m. For matinees, doors will open at 2 p.m. and will be shut at 2:15 p.m. As of April 17, the Thursday and Friday evening performances were filled but seats were available for the other shows. All are welcome to attend. Tickets for the play are complimentary but limited and must be reserved in advance by emailing Sophie Pakaluk at