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The Quick Chat series is where we dive into the life and times of APT's finest. This week features part two of our two-part character interviews with Core Company Actor Melisa Pereyra - this week she discusses playing Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It. (This interview is a follow up from Melisa's interview for the As You Like It Talkback to Go podcast episode, which you can listen to here. And if you missed the first installment of Melisa's Quick Chats, you can read that here.)
APT: How have your thoughts about the play and your relationship to Rosalind evolved since rehearsals?
Melisa Pereyra: I used to think that Rosalind was so wise. Playing her in contrast to Isabella this summer taught me so much about her, and how wrong I was. Before running away to the woods Rosalind feels out of place in her home, a place that was once owned by her father. If it weren’t for Celia, her happiness would be almost nonexistent. She is strong; standing up to her uncle with sound reasoning after being banished. She stands up to her envious uncle and demands that he tell her why she deserves this. After running off to Arden, Rosalind-turned-Ganymede finds a kind of freedom most of us wait our whole lives to experience. It is while she is outside the strictures of her patriarchal court that she finds ease in man’s clothing. She goes on a journey of self-discovery, learning about all the different kinds of love that exist in one’s life.
But the thing I learned most from playing her is that she is an absolute nerd. The way I play her is not with this sense of superiority, as if she knows exactly how love is supposed to work, but rather that she's surprised by all the things she discovers when she falls deeply in love herself. The disguise allows her to be honest about the things she is most afraid of - she gets to be fully herself and show the man she loves how difficult loving her might be. Yet both Rosalind and Orlando are fumbling with love, in their own way. Rosalind doesn’t have all the answers, she’s just pretending she does. On the page, it could easily look like she knows everything. I have discovered how much she DOESN’T know. That’s why Shakespeare gives her all that text - she needs all those words to figure it out.
APT: Can you talk a little bit about Rosalind and Celia’s relationship, and why their love is such a key component of the play?
MP: This is one of the strongest female friendships in the cannon. Celia is whip smart. Taking charge in the court when Rosalind is at a loss for words after her uncle banishes her. They can banter together like the best of them; we have all had friends like that. In these early scenes, it is Celia that is able to bring the best out in Rosalind.
What happens between friendships is so dependent on our surroundings - like anything else, I suppose. In our play, once Rosalind falls in love with Orlando, the communication with her cousin takes a sudden shift. All she wants to talk about is Orlando. All she thinks about is Orlando. Once she gets to Arden and she hears that the love of her life is also in these woods, all she wants CELIA to talk about is Orlando. The topic of their conversation goes from discussing the inequality of lady fortune, to love and Orlando. This kind of “growing” up together forces the friendship to shift. It is not until Celia falls in love herself that she can understand what Rosalind has been going through. Rosalind spends much of the second act asking Celia about Orlando, “What didst he when though sawst him, what said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with thee? And when shalt thou see him again?” Then later, “Have I not cause to weep?”. Then later, “How say you now? Is it not past two o clock? And here much Orlando.” Their friendship goes through growing pains once love enters into Rosalind’s psyche. But Celia is not replaced in Rosalind’s mind, she just hasn’t found a way to value both of them equally. She doesn’t until the very end; when she sees Celia fall in love and becomes the quick third wheel for the first time. Unfortunately, it is not until Rosalind is in Celia’s shoes that she understands how valuable Celia has been in her life. I think that is a very powerful thought to leave our audiences with.
APT: Do you really think Orlando doesn’t recognize Rosalind when she's disguised as Ganymede?
MP: I think that Orlando has no expectations of seeing her in these woods. It is SO unlikely that a lady of the court would end up in Arden, let alone dressed like a man. There are moments in the play where Orlando senses something, but we don’t explain this and neither does Shakespeare. Rosalind wants him to fall in love with Ganymede. What she is wearing is less relevant. She wants Orlando to spend time with her and comes up with the cleverest way to keep him around. Call ME Rosalind, she basically says. I don’t think he CAN know that she’s Rosalind. Shakespeare answers this for us in the last act when Orlando says to Rosalind’s father,
My lord, the first time that I ever saw him
Methought he was a brother to your daughter.
But, my good lord, this boy is forest-born
And hath been tutored in the rudiments
Of many desperate studies by his uncle,
Whom he reports to be a great magician
Obscurèd in the circle of this forest.
APT: Anything else you’d like to say about As You Like It?
MP: This is a play that brings joy. It is about love. And daring to discover who we are, regardless of the masks we chose to wear. It is about taking a leap of faith and trusting that your loved ones will be there to catch you and forgive you for your shenanigans in the end. It is put together with love and sweat and only happy tears. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making the language clear, accessible, and most importantly…making it FUN!