By Heidi Cho
The College had love letters strewn across campus to advertise for showings of the play “As You Like It,” which hit Don Evans Black Box Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and lasted through Saturday, Oct. 1. With a cast of 15 actors, the production put a modern twist on an old Shakespearean comedy.
Jenna Burke, the play’s assistant director and a senior English and secondary education dual major, explained the forethought behind the characters wearing modern clothing instead of Shakespearian attire in the forest. When the setting changes, the wardrobe switch fits as well for a modern twist on the original production.
“It seems like the obvious choice to make going from the transition into court from the forest because the court is definitely embedded with the ideology of patriarchy and monarchy and all those oppressive forces,” Burke said. “And then the forest, it just made sense for it to be 2016, because a lot of progressive things are happening there.”
As the director, alumnus Curt Foxworth (’02) asked the cast what they would wear in the forest setting. The resulting modern outfits for many of the characters incorporated boots and flannels. These were clothes that could endure the tougher forest life of the nobles-turned-peasants, according to Burke.
The costume transition was implemented during an onstage change. The costume designers were Sam Miller, a senior English and secondary education dual major, and Gretchen Heller, a senior nursing major. Miller reemphasized Burke’s point by saying that shedding the corsets in front of the audience during the costume change symbolized a transition from restraint to freedom.
“You kind of contract that through Rosalind and Orlando’s journeys in particular and how they both loosen up and find who they want to be,” Burke said. “They kind of break away from those more oppressive and straight and narrow ideals of the court.”
Both Miller and Heller said designing costumes for the production was interesting because they could work with both Shakespearean and modern attire. They were allowed to be creative with the modern outfits and thrift around for an outfit that fit the character best, with input from the actor. It created a compelling contrast for the actor to speak in Shakespearean language while walking around the stage in boots and flannels.
According to Jason Orbe, a member of the show’s building crew and a freshman technology education major, the mix of modern outfits and Shakespearian language was unexpected, but still worked because “it gives a different feel to the show.”
Cast members often locked eyes with audience members as they performed their lines with conviction. Orlando, played by junior chemistry major Eric Schreiber, asked an audience member to excuse him, as he pinned a letter to a tree behind them.
The actors made sure to give audience members seated along both sides of the theater something to watch. Changing up the seating is a fairly recent trend, according to Rebecca Conn, an usher, member of the building crew and a sophomore mathematics major. The characters were not centered around one point. Instead they were spaced out between two or three areas creating a dynamic blocking during certain scenes. It allowed the audience to watch characters from many seats. Conn commented that even from her seat to an extreme side of the theater, she was able to see.
Another interesting feature of the production was the slight changes to the lines. Burke advised the actors to take some liberty with the lines to ensure the audience understands the play’s themes as modern and relevant.
“If it felt modern to you, say it that way because that is going to help the audience get it,” Burke said she told the actors.
The strong comprehension resulted from the collaboration between actors, directors and costume designers to make the story more relevant to the audience, according to Conn.
Foxworth said he loved the difficulties of making a 400-year-old show relevant to students today, especially with the challenge of doing Shakespeare.
The cast, crew and the director were dedicated to make the play come to life and together, they transformed the Don Evans Black Box Theater.
“A few weeks ago… it was an empty room… and now I’m here. It’s a whole different world,” Orbe said.