“As You Like It” Annual Shakespeare Performance


Michelle Foster, A&E Editor

On the sunny evening of August 31, Whitman’s student theater helped kick off the start of the school year with a welcoming rendition of Shakespeare’s comedy, “As You Like It.”

The play follows a young woman named Rosalind and her cousin Celia as they are banished to the Forest of Arden. They wander around the woods, meet various wacky characters and find love.

The performance certainly embodied the comedic spirit of the piece. Through authentic expression and plenty of good humor from the actors, the often-difficult language of Shakespeare reached through to the audience. Characters in love behaved foolishly and elicited fondness from viewers.

This play was part of an annual tradition of Shakespeare plays performed at the start of the school term, and is a great way to introduce new students to Whitman’s theater program.

Donovan Olsen, ’19, directed this student-run play. The actors, composed of theater majors and non-theater majors alike, came to campus two weeks early to begin rehearsing. The relatively short time during which they could rehearse posed a challenge, but the students put it together in time for a wonderful performance.

The play was performed in the outdoor Amphitheater, which served as a suitable “Forest of Arden.”

“It [the Amphitheater] kind of opens the door in some ways,” Olsen said. “There’s entrances and exits from all these different pathways … so there are just all these different ways people can come, which works really well in the show because it’s a lot about people just meandering through the forest.”

The play not only served as a source of laughter but also brought up serious questions of family, loyalty and love through a tangle of relationships. Olsen emphasized the closeness of the two cousins and their support for each other, while Roy pointed out another important theme.

“Something that might apply to college students more is the idea of escaping to somewhere else and finding more freedom,” Roy said. “There’s idea of moving away from home…where there’s all of these rules that you have to follow, and coming to college where there’s a lot more freedom—freedom to express yourself how you want, and exploring relationships and love.”

The play also touched on gender presentation, something especially relevant today. Some traditionally male roles were played by female actors, and Rosalind dressed as a boy while trying to gain the love of Orlando, her suitor, inadvertently drawing the affections of a shepherdess. Roy spoke to this aspect.

“I want them [the audience] to think a little bit about gender expression, because there’s cross dressing in the play and different themes of falling in love with people who are presenting in a different way than you’d expect them to, and I think it would be an interesting conversation that college students would be interested in,” Roy said.

John Lyon, who played Orlando, offered another view on how students might connect with the performance.

“I think the themes and the characters are relatable, and the plots, while they may be extreme and the circumstances may be dire or over the top, they force the viewer to consider kind of more everyday themes,” Lyon said. “ ‘As You Like It’ is a play based around the ideas of love and [class]…and I think you don’t have to be exiled into a forest by a vengeful aunt to understand that.”

Vengeful aunt or not, it appeared that most of the audience was engaged with the themes in the play, making it a fun way for the Whitman community to gather and share some Shakespearean comedy on a Thursday evening.