Production of “As You Like It” puts Shakespeare in timeless setting


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Cast members rehearse for “As You Like It.” The show opens Friday in the Ethel M. Barber Theater.

Yaqoob Qaseem, Assistant A&E Editor


An upcoming student production of “As You Like It,” set in an unspecified time period, aims to show that although William Shakespeare wrote his work hundreds of years ago, it still contains themes that are relevant today.

“The reason we still do Shakespeare’s plays is because he’s articulating some fundamental truths about what it means to be in relationships with others, what it feels like to love, to hate, to be jealous,” said Risher Reddick, an MFA directing student and director of the play.

“As You Like It” will run from Friday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Dec. 6 in the Ethel M. Barber Theater. The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts mainstage production tells the story of the main character, Rosalind, who is banished to the forest by her duke uncle. Rosalind, accompanied by her cousin Celia, disguises herself as a man and attempts to teach the man she fell in love with before banishment, Orlando, how to love.

The distance between the audience’s and Shakespeare’s times can make his plays feel removed despite their timeless themes, Reddick said. The production incorporates features such as costumes and jokes from various time periods through the present to bring the play closer to the audience.

“It’s important for the audience to know that this is not something in the past that lacks relevance for them,” Reddick said. “We get down to articulating (Shakespeare’s themes) rather than getting bogged down in a particular period or a particular place or a particular time.”

The play takes place in two main settings, a court representing structure and a forest representing wilderness, Reddick said.

Olivia Cygan, a Communication senior playing Rosalind, said she appreciates how Reddick encourages her to focus on playing her character rather than focusing on acting like a man. Throughout the show, her disguise slips when she expresses too much affection for Orlando.

“(Reddick) has really encouraged us to think about who we are in relation to all (the characters),” Cygan said. “Risher really treats these characters as full, complicated humans, and that’s really nice.”

Cygan also said it has been nice that the play includes a dramaturg, a person on the production team to provide context for the play and answer questions about words and allusions.

Alicia Hernandez Grande, a second-year Communication graduate student and the dramaturg for the play, said she often describes herself as the Wikipedia in the room. Cygan said Hernandez Grande provides relevant background information and finds new information when she does not have the answer to a specific question.

Hernandez Grande said she looks at how words, jokes, sarcasm and irony translate over the past 400 years. She explores how Shakespeare’s meaning and intention can be conveyed to modern audiences.

Cygan said she is looking forward to performing for an audience, as Reddick encourages the actors to talk directly to the audience when possible.

Reddick said he has a long history of performance with Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, where the work focuses on the relationship between the actors and the audience.

Before coming to Northwestern, Reddick founded Orfeo Group, a theater company based in Massachusetts that focused on creating large events around the shows using extension programming. He said he will incorporate some of these features in “As You Like It” by including both pre-show and post-show surprises for the audience.

“It’s a really fun, interactive production that requires the presence of the audience for it to really take off and take life,” Reddick said. “The arc of the audience’s experience coming to the play will hopefully be as much of a delight as seeing the play itself.”

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