American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
As Shakespearean comedies go, As You Like It is quite nearly perfect. It has such a good heart; such compassion for how messy it is to be human, that you’re ambushed by the comedy of it all. So much of this high-stakes yet shamelessly feel-good story can be placed at the feet of Rosalind – our transcendent heroine-come-hero-come-heroine again. Her radical goodness elevates those in her orbit, even as it puts her in harm’s way. Because people with power often keep it by quelling those who are special. Sometimes all it takes to beat them is a trip into the woods.
Closes October 7
Featuring: Tracy Michelle Arnold, Kelsey Brennan, Nate Burger,
David Daniel, Tim Gittings, Chris Klopatek, Brian Mani, Melisa Pereyra, Andrea San Miguel
Two of Shakespeare’s favorite devices – cross-dressing and running away to the woods – meet in glorious fashion in As You Like It. Rosalind and Celia are best friends and cousins. But when Celia’s father, the Duke, begins to see Rosalind as a threat to his daughter’s future prosperity, the two women don disguises (with Rosalind pretending to be a boy named Ganymede) and head to the Forest of Arden before Rosalind can be banished. Meanwhile, Orlando, a young gentleman who had previously fallen in love with Rosalind, is similarly threatened by his own brother and also flees to the Forest. There, he meets “Ganymede,” who promises to teach him how to woo Rosalind. All that plus a band of merry woods-dwelling misfits make for a great Shakespearean comedy.
In this play, Shakespeare’s richest comedy, not much happens. This seems
intentional so that the wonderful arguments and discoveries in the play
can ring out to us. These arguments are about good and bad brothers, city
life versus country life, Time, Love and the courage to transform oneself.
They remain our current arguments as we search for deeper meaning and
connection in our ever-accelerating lives.
The play focuses on the deep friendship of two young women, Rosalind
and Celia, and their journey of discovery. Rosalind, smart, brave, joyful, has
traveled across the centuries as one of Shakespeare’s seminal creations. But
we carry her with us because her yearnings are ours. We remember ourselves
on the precipice of adult life, making our way, alive to everything before us.
Ali Smith, like many wonderful writers before her (Tom Stoppard with
Thomasina in Arcadia is one vivid example) seems to channel Rosalind in her
recent novel Autumn. Daniel Gluck, 101 years old and near death, re-reads a
letter he has held for 75 years from his younger sister who was 18 when she
wrote it. Surely Rosalind could have written this letter to her dear cousin,
Celia, or to her love, Orlando.
It’s a question of how we regard our situations, dearest Dani, how we look
and see where we are, and how we choose, if we can, when we are seeing
undeceivedly, not to despair and, at the same time, how best to act. Hope is
exactly that, that’s all it is, a matter of how we deal with the negative acts
towards human beings by other human beings in the world, remembering that
they and we are all human, that nothing human is alien to us, the foul and
the fair, and that most important of all we’re here for a mere blink of the eyes,
that’s all. But in that Augenblick there’s either a benign wink or a willing
blindness, and we have to know we are equally capable of both, and be ready
to be above and beyond the foul even when we are up to our eyes in it. So it’s
important— and here I acknowledge the kind and charming and mournful
soul of my dear brother whom I know so well — not to waste the time, our
time, when we have it.
Shakespeare brings all of humanity into As You Like It. He refuses to judge his
characters, and instead presents them learning “how best to act” (or perhaps,
not). Our job, then, is to lean in and listen.