Kent Thompson and the Four Loves of 'As You Like It'

Carolyn Holding and Maurice Jones are just one of four love stories that play out in 'As You Like It.' Photo credit: Adams Visual Communications.
Carolyn Holding and Maurice Jones are just one of four love stories that play out in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It.’ Photo credit: Adams Visual Communications.

During preparations for the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, opening Friday (Oct. 2), dramaturg Doug Langworthy sat down with director Kent Thompson to talk about the play, the production and that great motivator of all things – love.

By Douglas Langworthy
For the DCPA NewsCenter

Doug Langworthy: Is there something new you want to explore with this production?

Kent Thompson: I think Rosalind is one of the great, strong women in literature. And she is the best wedding planner on Earth, managing to bring together four weddings at once – including her own. She’s representative of so many strong women we are seeing today who figure out how to make it work, whether it’s in romance or life. And that’s really exciting to me.

Doug Langworthy: When are you going to set the play?

Kent Thompson: We will follow the progression of the seasons. We go to the country first in the winter, which changes into spring, and then summer, when all the plants bloom, people start falling in love and the world order starts to get restored. The setting will be a blend of Impressionism and art nouveax, which was a man-made version of nature. Early noir films will influence the look of the court, which will be black and white, gray and silver. It will have the feel of a winter palace.

Doug Langworthy: This play seems to be about a lot of different kinds of love. What do you think Shakespeare is trying to say about that?

Kent Thompson: The title has always fascinated people — As You Like It. What is “It”? I think part of ‘It’ is about the types of love in the play. The four couples are unique. Rosalind and Orlando are one of the great couples in romantic literature because Orlando is a natural-born gentleman, even though he’s not been educated by his brother – as he should have been after his father died. But he also has an incredible heart. We know he has great physical prowess because he wins a wrestling match. Rosalind is one of the smartest, most observant, probably best-read women around, so she knows everything that’s been written about love, and she’s watched it in other people. They get to exchange a better sense of the mind with a better sense of the heart, so it’s like passion meets wit. With Touchstone and Audrey, you’ve got the urban stand-up comic of the court and the wench, the buxom goatherd in the country. He’s in it for the lust, while she’s in it for the social position. With Oliver and Celia, who are both actually more traditional in their world views, it’s love at first sight. Boom, they’re in love, they’re going to be married in two days. But there’s a journey he has to go through that’s very painful, being banished himself and becoming homeless, coming to Arden and getting lost. And then with Phoebe and Silvius we have a scornful woman who thinks a lot of herself and the absolutely lovesick young man. So it’s really four images of love, and then you have these other love relationships that are about father and daughter, brother and brother, who’s banished, who’s in, who’s out. I see it as a play of that romantic journey and all the resulting transformation.

Doug Langworthy: Can you talk about the love between Rosalind and Celia?

Kent Thompson: Rosalind and Celia start the play in late adolescence/early adulthood, and they’ve learned so much and matured so much by the end of the play. They have been brought up together and might as well be sisters. They have a bond that’s intensely strong — Celia has no hesitation to run off when her cousin Rosalind is banished. That kind of love is remarkable, and it speaks to the strength of those two women.

Doug Langworthy: How would you compare Orlando to that other great Shakespearean lover, Romeo?

Kent Thompson: They are both children of wealthy, aristocratic families. The biggest difference in some ways is that Romeo has picked up the poetry and in some ways the femininity of the high-born Renaissance lover, the art of courting, the art of love. But then he’s suddenly jolted awake by the murder. It’s interesting because the strongest person in that play is Juliet. In this play, Orlando is the prototype of the very masculine male. He’s a natural gentleman with a great heart and integrity, a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve.

Doug Langworthy: How would you compare Touchstone to other Shakespearean fools?

Kent Thompson: We know Touchstone was played by Robert Armin, one of the great Elizabethan jester actors. He was the smart, witty, rapid-fire kind of comedian. There was another clown-actor that played the broader roles like Bottom in Midsummer or Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, roles that did not rely on how fast you were with your wit. Touchstone is also the type of fool like Feste in Twelfth Night, in that he has the ability to see people and comment upon them. Touchstone is a guy who always has the ridiculously good comeback, the Robin Williams of the world vs. Jim Carey, whose comedy is very broad.

Doug Langworthy: What about all the music in the play, all the songs?

Kent Thompson: The songs and music in the play are composed by Gary Grundei, who has composed music for many Shakespeare productions at the Denver Center. The songs in the play are very important, and you’ll notice that none of them happen in the court. The music definitely incorporates the themes that folk music does, about the harshness of winter, the ingratitude of men, the love or even lust between a man and a woman. The final song is Hymen’s song, which is about marriage and fertility and joins all the couples together.

Doug Langworthy: Any final thoughts?

Kent Thompson: I think it will be romantic, fun, beautiful and heartfelt.

As You Like It: Ticket information

  • Sept. 25-Nov. 1
  • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
  • Space Theatre
  • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of As You Like It:
    As You Like It opens: A woman’s woman in a man’s world
    As You Like It begins rehearsals: ‘Literally, watch it bloom’
    Costume corner: Letting it all go in the Arden Forest
    Shakespeare’s largest female role might surprise you: It’s Rosalind
    Casting announced for Theatre Company’s fall shows
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    Official show page

    As You Like It ‘meet the cast’ profiles (more to come):
    Maurice Jones, Orlando
    Geoffrey Kent, Actor, Assistant Director and Fight Director

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