SHSU’s Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre will be presenting Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” later this month.
The play is being directed by Thomas Prior, who has taught at Sam since 2003. Prior is returning to campus after a sabbatical in which he directed Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” in Prague.
“I was sitting in my flat in Prague, overlooking the Vltava river. My department chair had said we were going to be doing As You Like It, rather than Midsummer Night’s Dream. I got to thinking, well, what are the thematic themes of the play that might tie into where I am?” Prior said.
Finding things in the play that are thematically sound but more culturally relevant is a tricky balance that directors must walk according to Prior.
“So I started thinking about revolution. I started thinking about a regime that is restrictive vs the freedoms of democracy. And you can really see that in the play,” Prior said, “I think it ties in really neatly.”
When it comes to putting on a Shakespeare production with a new concept, it can become a balancing act for the director.
“It’s a careful balancing act. I’ve seen productions of Shakespeare with a concept that’s just placed on it. It’s always a danger when you approach Shakespeare and you say, well, we are going to do something with it because it has to be in the text. You have to go back to the text. Does the text support the context and is it natural in that world.” Prior said.
“As You Like” It falls chronologically in the middle of Shakespeare’s repertoire, alongside the likes of Hamlet. The chief difference is that “As You Like It” focuses on the comedy, while containing many other traditional dramatic elements.
“It’s a comedy. A light comedy in some places, it has its dark moments too,” Prior said. “It’s one of Shakespeare’s later plays, and Rosalind is very close for an actress to play as Hamlet is.”
For those weary of Shakespeare’s work, Prior offered an encouragement, noting that the treatment and style of the play will appear to almost any audience member.
“It’s accessible. When we did it in Prague they bussed in school children. Whenever you can have small children in an audience looking, and they don’t speak English, and they are paying attention and are engaging, you have something,” Prior said.
“As You Like It” is being held Feb. 22 through Feb. 25 in the Erica Starr Theatre in the Universities Theatre Center. Tickets are available now for $15 for general admission.