'Texas' cast uses downtime to stage Shakespeare's classic 'As You Like It'
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
William Shakespeare's As You Like It is one of the playwright's mid-tier plays, but if it's known for anything, it's for the monologue that begins "All the world's a stage."
And the Texas company is conveniently proving that statement's truth in a pair of stagings beginning Monday.
As You Like It will be staged at 8:30 p.m. Monday and June 26 in the main plaza at the entrance of Pioneer Amphitheatre in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, not on the amphitheater's stage, as usual.
"(T)hat (monologue) was not really in my thought process about the non-traditional staging but I think that it complements/justifies the approach beautifully," director Andrew Barratt Lewis said.
A tree-filled glade in the atrium will serve as the Forest of Arden, through which Rosalind (Katie Beth Stubbs) traverses after being banished from the court by her aunt, Dutchess Fredrika (Reilly Downes, playing a part traditionally written for a man), who usurped the duchy of her brother, Duke Senior (Joshua Walters). Her cousin, Celia (Cheyenne Haynes), runs off with her and court jester Touchstone (Joey Carroll), with Rosalind disguising herself as a man named Ganymede to avoid detection.
In the woods, they meet Orlando (Dakota Brown), who fell head over heels for Rosalind before her exile, and Ganymede offers to take Rosalind's place to help cure Orlando of his heartsickness. Touchstone falls in love with a shepherdess, Audrey (Lauren Reynolds), but must marry her before consummating the relationship, while Celia, who is disguised as a poor young woman named Aliena, meets and falls in love with Orlando's older brother, Oliver (Micah Weese).
"It's a whole bunch of philosophy and shenanigans," Carroll said.
It's a contemporary staging, too, with the Duchess portrayed as a contemporary political type, while Arden has the bohemian vibe of Coachella, Lewis said.
"There's a vibe in the forest that's loose, do whatever feels right," he said.
The comedy has the "least toxic" romantic relationships in Shakespearean canon, Haynes said: "They're all decent to each other and have happy endings."
Lewis said he chose the comedy because of its complexity and wittiness, as well as the way it plays with gender roles.
"We've done a little more of that by swapping out the genders of some other characters," he said, citing the Duchess and her second child, Jaques, played by Nikki Dawes.
Additionally, the cast will play around with the idea of when Orlando realizes that Ganymede is actually a disguised Rosalind and how that plays into his relationship with his new, purportedly male friend.
"What's fun about this show is because it's a little more philosophical, we've had way more conversations about trying to decipher it," Lewis said. "It's intellectually fulfilling."
That's one reason Texas company members are willing to use their precious free time to stage another show on two of the only nights they have off all summer.
"I would rather do this than eat food and watch Netflix all day," Carroll said. "I can't (see) myself doing anything but this."