Accessing Shakespeare: AWT’s “As You Like It” coming soon

Krystine Lucas and Jessica Buchanan during rehearsal on Feb. 23. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

Krystine Lucas and Jessica Buchanan during rehearsal on Feb. 23. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

For non-theatre buffs, the mere thought of Shakespeare can be in­timidating. The antiquated language and bad memories of having it drilled into your head in high school English courses combine to frighten the unfa­miliar away from the Bard.

Students from the Actors Workshop Theatre and director Heidi Verwey have been working over the last two months to make the most famous playwright of all time more ac­cessible to students and the general pub­lic with their latest production, “As You Like It.”

The play will run at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 to 28 and March 5 to 7. Matinees are Friday Feb. 27 and March 6, both at 11:30 a.m.

Verwey is very aware of how inac­cessible Shakespeare can be at times and directed her students in a way that com­bats that stigma.

“[I instructed them to] play this for the person in the audience who doesn’t get it. If you can engage someone who wasn’t in the beginning, then we’ve made something,” Verwey said.

The two lead roles are played by fourth-year students Jessica Buchan­an, as Rosalin, and Josh Sunderman, as Orlando.

Both actors experienced challenges with the text of the play and learn­ing their lines. Once they mastered the lines, the next obstacle was nav­igating and acting within a “theatre in the round,” a unique stage layout that fea­tures audience seat­ing on four sides of the stage.

“[We are] pre­forming in the round. We know that not everyone can see our faces. You have to find a way to emote with­out facing everyone,” Sunderman said.

While Sunder­man cited the round as one of his biggest challenges, Buchan­an enjoyed the lay­out.

“I find theatre in the round kind of freeing. Especially since it’s Shake­speare. The audience can see the whole picture – they ar­en’t missing out on stuff. You get to see Shakespeare in its entirety. It’s quite fun and a little dan­gerous,” Buchanan said.

During rehearsal, Verwey made sure the actors were on point with their expressions by moving around and viewing the play from every part of the seating area.

The culmination of two months’ work and nightly rehearsals has finally come together.

“It’s really exciting. That one point in rehearsal when you say the line right, the lights are on and you have that mo­ment, of, ‘yeah, I just killed that.’ You get the physicality right, the line right, you get the expression right; you know you look good. When it all comes together, that’s the most rewarding [part],” Buchanan said.

Many of the actors did “double du­ties” in this show, according to Verwey. Maddi Hartloff and Kaliey Clark are both in the production, and created the costumes. Two of the assistant stage managers have roles as well. All of this combined effort has resulted in a “truly ensemble piece,” Verwey said.

“These two are the leads. They should be the be all and end all of romantic leads, but they are just such good team players, they let everyone else play,” Verwey said of Buchanan and Sunderman.

“As You Like It” features the main love story of Rosalin and Orlando and many other side relationships. This play encompasses all types of relation­ships, familial and romantic, and at its core, it is simply about love.

Why should students spend a ro­mantic evening in the round, experi­encing Shakespeare?

“It’s still relevant, with universal themes [of] love, gender dynamics and family relationships. Just because it’s Shakespeare, it shouldn’t draw peo­ple away. He is as important and well known for a reason,” Sunderman said.

“I can’t think of a reason not to. It’s Shakespeare, it’s set in the 60’s, it’s fun. You get to learn things. You get to see parts of other people’s lives, and maybe your own life, unfold right in front of you,” Buchanan said.