'As You Like It' begins rehearsals: 'Literally, watch it bloom'

Photos from the opening rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s “As You Like It,” opening Sept. 25 and running through Nov. 1 in The Space Theatre. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA’s NewsCenter.

Shakespeare has officially returned to the DCPA Theatre Company, and the cast of the upcoming As You Like It has officially run off into the Arden Forest. But the dense woodland of this play is not the same magical, fantastical place audiences may remember from, say, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“With so many of Shakespeare’s plays, you escape to the woods to restore order and harmony,” Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson told the cast, creative team, staff, ambassadors and donors who gathered for Friday’s first rehearsal in advance of a Sept. 25 opening in the Space Theatre. “That’s true here, too. There is some kind of magical presence in As You Like It. But the woods are a very different place in this play than they are in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Maurice Jones, who plays Orlando, reads at the first rehearsal for 'As You Like It.' Photo by John Moore. In As You Like It, the forest is a very real place where a curiously high number of unlucky exiled city-dwellers have fled. When the play opens, the forest is a cold and harsh place that gradually gives way to warmth, new love and new life.

And unlike Midsummer, this romantic comedy has a meaty undertone that still speaks to gender issues in society.

(Photo, right: Maurice Jones, who plays Orlando, reads at the first rehearsal for ‘As You Like It.’ Photo by John Moore.)

As You Like It revolves around Rosalind, whom Thompson calls one of the most beloved leads in all of Shakespeare. Rosalind must overcome the sadness of her dad’s exile and the brutality of her own banishment by her brutal uncle.

“Rosalind is extraordinary, smart, witty, knowing and goodhearted; but also daring, impetuous, risky, brave and fast on her feet,” Thompson said. “Unlike any other Shakespeare play, what you think of as the hero’s journey is the actually heroine’s journey here.”

And an arduous journey it is, he added.

“She decides to dress like a man and undertakes an dangerous journey on foot to the forest,” Thompson said. “She has the pluck and wit to teach Orlando about love – and also ends up being the best wedding planner in literature.”

Every opening DCPA Theatre Company rehearsal is not only an opportunity for artists to reunite or introduce themselves, it is also a chance for Thompson and his artistic team to fully spell out their vision for the world of the play. At its heart, Thompson told those gathered, As You Like It is a play about transformation.

Costume Designer Denitsa Bliznakova“There are so many things that go from one side to the other throughout the course of the play,” Thompson said. “We go from the court to the forest, from winter to summer, sickness to health, man-made to nature, paranoia to trust, deceit to honesty, madness to sanity, betrayal to benevolence, sin to atonement.

“Once we get to the forest, we have glimpses of a better world where hope can spring, the flowers come up and life is renewed.”

And that idea will be reflected in every aspect of the production’s design, Thompson said.

“We begin in the court, which is indoors, very dark, hard-edged and angular,” Thompson said. “Then we go into the forest, and I feel like the Forest of Arden is like the Ardennes Forest, which is where the Battle of the Bulge happened. It’s an incredibly old, dense forest, and you can get easily lost there … but it’s also a great place to hide. When you enter the forest, you have to really work your way through it. That’s why they had to send in tanks by the dozens to get through the Ardennes.

“It’s pretty hard out there but over time it becomes brighter and brighter – and where I went immediately was to the impressionists, the pointillists. We will create a palate where we can start with cold austerity … and literally watch it bloom.”
The opening read-through for the cast of 'As You Like It.' Photo by John Moore.

The opening read-through for the cast of ‘As You Like It.’ Photo by John Moore.

Quick comments from members of the Design Team:

David Barber, Scenic Designer: “So people ask, ‘What period is the play set?’ While we have loosely decided that we are kind of late Victorian, we are going to encourage everyone to stop talking about period. Because we’re doing what we want to do, and   ultimately that means we are going everywhere from the 1870s all the way through the 1900s. So we have silhouettes that (Costume Designer) Denitsa Bliznakova was interested in doing, and we have architectural looks that I wanted. It has the feeling of being of another place, but we are not being sticklers for being dead-on 1875. We are taking a lot of liberties.”  

Charlie Miller, Projections: “David has created a fascinating palate, and we are thinking of the projections on the floor as the paint to help us move through the seasons – and also to provide a little bit of magic when it might be helpful. The Court will be very high-contrast black-and-white. Very man-made. The floor will seem harsh, confined and angular. When we move into the forest, we will go from winter through spring and into summer. Once we get into the forest, we are really drawing pretty exclusively off of (Austrian painter Gustav) Klimt. We will be taking elements from his work and re-imagining them to create this forest environment that is both impressionistic and abstract, but also creates a sense of a real place in the forest.”

(Note: Klimt was Vienna’s most renowned advocator of Art Nouveau, or, as the style was known in Germany, Jugendstil (“youth style”). He is remembered as one of the greatest decorative painters of the 20th century, and he also produced one of the century’s most significant bodies of erotic art.)

Denitsa Bliznakova, Costume Designer: “The one thing that was extremely important from the beginning was the theme of transformation. Also, from the beginning, period was not important. I feel like the two worlds we are going to be creating – the Court and the forest – both could exist now. And they both could have existed at the turn of the 20th century, or the turn of the 19th century. I actually see the Court as a cage, and Rosalind and Celia as two beautiful birds in that cage. It’s a beautiful cage – but it’s still a cage. So in the Court, we are going to see very restricting, suffocating garments. But throughout the play, people are transforming and they are giving up their old habits, and so they will be shedding clothes. By the end, most of the actors will be in bare feet and loose shirts. We are going to end up with something that is completely different and beautiful compared to where we started.”

Kent Thompson introduces his concept for 'As You Like it' to the cast on the opening rehearsal. Photo by John Moore.

Kent Thompson introduces his concept for ‘As You Like it’ to the cast on the opening rehearsal. Photo by John Moore.

As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Sept. 25-Nov. 1
DCPA Theatre Company
Space Theatre

303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

carolyn holdingCast list:
Stanley Ray Baron (Page)
J. Paul Boehmer (Duke Frederick/Duke Senior)
Jason Bowen (Oliver)
Maren Bush (Celia)
Adrian Egolf (Audrey)
Ben W. Heil (Page)

Carolyn Holding (Rosalind, pictured)

Drew Horwitz (William)
Maurice Jones (Orlando)
Geoffrey Kent (Sir Oliver Martext)
Emily Kron (Phebe)
Nick LaMedica (Silvius)
Lars Lundberg (Page)
Eddie Martinez (Corin)
M. Scott McLean (Amiens)
Daniel Pearce (Jacques)
Philip Pleasants (Adam)
William Oliver Watkins (Charles/Jaques de Boys)
Matt Zambrano (Touchstone)

Previous NewsCenter coverage of As You Like It:
Casting announced for Theatre Company’s fall shows
DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16

Shakespeare’s largest female role might surprise you: It’s Rosalind

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *