What do you get when you have seven players and your troupe needs to put on a play by William Shakespeare? You get a bit of hilarity, chaotic costume changes, and some ingenuity.
Starting on February 18th, Parkland College Theatre will begin presenting The Curate Shakespeare Company As You Like It: Being the Record of One Company’s Attempt to Perform the Play by William Shakespeare. Written by Don Nigro in 1976, Curate As You Like It follows a traveling troupe of seven players tasked with performing As You Like It. With multiple roles to fill, the comedy of the original play is heightened by the antics of the players attempting to get As You Like It right.
Famous for “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players,” As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s comedic pastoral plays. In disguise as the young man Ganymede and the maid Aliena, our female lead Rosalind and her cousin Celia attempt to resolve the familial and romantic conflicts surrounding them. Much of the comedy in the play comes from female Rosalind being male Ganymede and the confusion that ensues from the other characters falling in love with one identity or the other. Not to mention Rosalind’s attempts to reconcile her uncle’s usurpation of her father’s dukedom and trying to keep her love interest Orlando out of trouble as a key point of conflict. Like Shakespeare, Nigro toys with the idea of reality, fiction, and presentation through costume changes, actors playing different roles, and actors playing actors.
In talking to director Kate Riley, I was able to get a few more details about what Parkland College Theatre has planned for Curate As You Like It.
Smile Politely: With only seven actors for numerous parts, how did you tackle representing the different roles onstage?
Kate Riley: Costumes and characterization help delineate the different roles. The actors have done a marvelous job playing with different ways to portray different roles and Malia Andrus’ costumes are magnificent. The audience will have a great time watching the actors frantically change into their different costumes for each character.
SP: Shakespearean plays aren’t always set in the Elizabethan period. Curate As You Like It seems like a good interpretation that doesn’t need to be in the 1500s to be believable. Is your production set in a different time period?
KR: The play is set in 1500’s. The fun of the play is the actors working with these period costumes, trying to make the costume changes for their multiple roles and staying in character.
SP: With each actor or actress playing three or more roles, what did you do to help them find their characters?
Riley: We talked about what motivated their characters, their primary tactics and how they would hold themselves. The actors would paraphrase their lines in rehearsal as well.
SP: Also, Curate As You Like It will be performed in Parkland College’s Second Stage, a Black Box-style theatre. What are the pros and cons of performing this play in such a flexible and open environment?
Riley: The theatre is a wonderful space. The actors are incredibly close to the audience which serves us well but it is also a little crowded for the actors. We’ve had some challenges designing the set so the actors can move smoothly, have levels but not sit on the audience’s laps.
SP: I see Hymen the priest isn’t listed as a character. Are we, the audience, still going to get our happy ending?
Riley: Of course! It wouldn’t be a comedy without a happy ending! And you will get Hymen.
As long as we get our happy ending for Rosalind/Ganymede (and the appearance of a large animal in the third act), then it’s safe to say Curate As You Like It will bring us an interesting adaptation of familiar material. How the romantic and familial conflicts along with themes of gender and fiction play out on stage with expertly crafted costumes in Curate As You Like It will be a treat.
Curate As You Like It opens Thursday, February 18th, at 7:30p.m. with half-price admission — $7.50 for adults and $6.50 for Parkland students, faculty members, and staff. The play will be offered on February 19th, 20th, 20th, 25th, 26th, & 27th at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee on Feb. 28th at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors (65+) and $11 each for groups of 15 or more. You can reserve tickets online or by calling (217) 351-2528. Find more information on Parkland Theatre at their website.