For some students, Shakespeare is a distant, convoluted high-school memory. But in Theatre St. Thomas’ most recent production of As You Like It, Shakespeare was made accessible for both the actors and the audience members.
The well-known Shakespearean comedy ran from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 in the Black Box Theatre.
For several actors, like third-year student Mallory Kelly, it was their first time acting in a Shakespeare play. They said modernizations by Director Ilkay Silk made the production easier to understand.
“The work that Ilkay has put in to making sure that we really understand all of the intent behind everything that we’re saying, and then changing words to make it easier, both for people watching the show to understand, but also for ourselves. It has made a world of difference,” said Kelly, who played a shepherdess named Corrine.
The play centered around a love story between Rosalind and Orlando, played by fourth-year student Naomi McGowan and first-year student Reinaldo Cascante. After being banished from their community, both characters escape to the Forest of Arden, Rosalind takes her cousin Celia, who is also the daughter of the duke, played by Mika Driedger, and Orlando takes his friend Adam, played by Lucas Gutiérrez-Robert.
Both their escape and their love interest is prompted by one of the most action-packed scenes in the play: a wrestling match excellently executed on stage by Cascante and Dustyn Forbes, who played Charles, a wrestler.
Once Rosalind and Celia arrive in the forest, they disguise themselves, Rosalind as a shepherd named Ganymede and Celia as the shepherdess sister named Aliena. In the woods they meet a variety of interesting characters and reintroduce themselves to Orlando, who does not recognize the cousins.
Orlando had been leaving love notes around the forest for Rosalind, who is also in love with Orlando but is in disguise. Ganymede proposes he can cure Orlando of his love for Rosalind by helping him act out the relationship. Ganymede pretends to be Rosalind and has Orlando work through his feelings of love for her.
McGowan’s performance was certainly one of the most dynamic in the play. With seamless transitions between playing Rosalind and Ganymede, she dealt with playing a character within a character gracefully. McGowan has been either cast or crew for every TST production since her first year, and other cast members like Reinaldo Cascante, consider her to be a fountain of knowledge.
“With her, I share most of my scenes. I think she has taught me even more so, in terms of just the flexibility of acting and how to portray a character,” said Cascante.
McGowan said she has learned from others working on the production and has seen a lot of growth within the multi-level cast. She said there is a lot to contemplate and learn from in As You Like It, for both the actors and the audience.
“I find the show is really natural, it’s very realistic. It’s very fun and light and silly, even though they’re doing these really serious things. Like, she’s [taken the daughter of the duke]. That’s against the law; she could be killed for doing this,” said McGowan.
“As soon as you get to the Forest of Arden you just let the weight fall. I think that’s what I want people to take away; life is light, even when it’s not.”