The sporadic ramblings of Emily C. A. Snyder - devoted to God, theatre, writing, and much randominity.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Host: "Hamlet to Hamilton: Exploring Verse Drama" | Founder: TURN TO FLESH PRODUCTIONS | Author: "Cupid and Psyche" "Nachtsturm Castle" & Others | Caitlin O'Sullivan in "The Ghost Ship" (Boston Metaphysical Society)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

This Blog Has Moved!

In case it were not supremely evident, this blog has now moved to Hope to see you there! - Emily

Monday, July 25, 2011

Looking for a good beach read?

Look no further than the novels below! Whether you're in the mood for in-depth fantasy like Tolkein, a quick fairy tale, or a tongue-in-cheek romp through the Alps, you're in luck!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Poster for As You Like It

Despite feeling behind on the times, voila the first template for the As You Like It poster! Hurrah!

Music: "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" as covered by Rufus Wainwright
Mood: Struggling against ridiculous feelings of unaccomplishment. Silly brain.
Thought: "Keep calm and kiss a friend." Ah, rehearsals!

Friday, May 27, 2011

How do you solve a problem like Orlando?

I apologize for some of the funky formatting.  Blogger doesn't like me today.

One of the most common critiques I hear of As You Like It is typically lobbed at its putative hero, Orlando.  "As You Like It!"  They scoff.  "That's the one where you've got some lovesick jerk running around the forest sticking bad poetry up."  Then they go on to extol the virtues of Measure for Measure or Merchant of Venice or something (which I sum up as, "Oh, two of his most problematic plays.").

When I first heard this critique, it was from my undergrad college Shakespeare professor, bless him, whose wife - it had been whispered through the school - had cheated on him and left him just a few years previous, which made taking Shakespeare classes with him...unique.  Apparently, in the years closer to his personal tragedy, when my older-than-me college buddies were taking his classes, he was particularly bitter against any of the Bard's praises of romantic love - which praises are pretty much ubiquitous if not the whole and summation of most of Shakespeare's plays.  By the time I took his class, his ire had abated somewhat, and he certainly instilled in me the crucial key to such plays as Romeo and Juliet, which he argued all came down to the fact that marriage isn't a joke, that it means something.

He argued, and rightly, although perhaps just a bit sadly, that the tragedy of R&J is that they get married.  That one act leads to the impossible situation they find themselves in for the remainder of the play.  Were Romeo not married to Juliet, she would be free to marry Paris, and Tybalt probably wouldn't seek Romeo's blood so ardently, and everyone would survive, whether or not they survived happily.  Now, my poor professor may have felt that this simply showed that marriage equals pain, but I think it means that marriage and vows ought to mean something and that from time immemorial there have been pressures in society to break vows and that is tragic.  Anyway....  If you're ever directing R&J, consider everything leading up to and out from the marriage.

Naturally, my professor was far better at teaching the tragedies than he was teaching the comedies/romances (at least as this addled brain can recall) and I remember as we were at the mid-way point between switching over from the comedies to reading the romances that he explained why we weren't reading As You Like It.  "Oh," he said dismissively, "I simply can't stand and won't read that jerk running around carving poetry into trees."

Since I had never read the play, and since I had been less than whelmed reading All's Well that Ends Well (a plot I still can't retain although Wikipedia informs me that it does indeed retain a girl deceiving a guy which is why it got all jumbled together in my brain with As You Like It - that and the silly titles), and prior to that Measure for Measure (which actually intrigued me although it also bore resemblances to AWTEW in forcible marriages, as well as) and prior to that The Merchant of Venice (which I mostly remember as "Wait, it's not about Shylock?") and somewhere in there Two Gentlemen of Verona (which is under freaking dispute as to whether Shakespeare wrote it at all - he probably didn't -  and which plot I can't recall even one whit) and since all these half-read comedies (yes, I started to slack big time in that class...yup, me) started to blend into each other, I was just as glad not to read one about tree-hugging hippies in Elizabethan England.  

Correction: According to my friend Wikipedia, I did read Two Gentlemen and probably not All's Well, since I vaguely remember between Merchant and some other play and Twelfth Night a lot of female cross-dressing.  A note to all future professors of Shakespeare: for Heaven's sake, make us do more than skim-read the play on our own time!  Presume the comedies have distinction and something of worth, worth studying!  And realize that if you dismiss a play, as I seem to have done above listing my initial reactions, I grant you, that your opinion will lodge pretty deep in your students' heads, without a single scrap of evidence.  So, careful what you teach.  This has been a message from your friendly former scholar.  Thank you.

Consequently, for years my idea of As You Like It boiled down to this one image of this guy streaking through the forest, sort of laughing "OOoooohHAHAHHAAHHAAH.... LOOOOOOVE!"  Somewhere between Saint Francis as depicted in Brother Sun, Sister Moon and George Emerson in the Merchant Ivory production of A Room With a View.  

Imagine my disgruntlement, then, when I learnt a year after my under-graduation that AYLI was going to be a major part of our curriculum in England.  Imagine my utter surprise and delight when I finally read the play and said, "This is un-freaking-believably-AWESOME!"  Imagine my joy when I read Orlando saying, "I will love you forever and a day" and Rosalind replying "Say the day without the ever."  Or earlier, when Jacques asks how tall Orlando's love is, that paper-hanging hero says, "Just as high as my heart."  I mean, c'mon!  How can you not love a fellow you replies to Rosalind/Ganymede:

R/G: But are you he that hangs the verses on the trees wherein Rosalind is so admired?
O: I am he, that unfortunate he.
R/G: But are you so much in love as your rhymes profess?
O: Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.
R/G: O!  Love is merely a madness!
It didn't hurt that Vivien, who did most of the text work, made me hit the word Rosalind breathlessly, while Bernard, who did most of the blocking, had myself facing my Orlando during the exchange and quite intimate, and then to burst out in a fit of embarrassed manliness on "Love is merely a madness."  Nor did it hurt that my Orlando was a Greek god.
No kidding.

So, they casted us blindly.  As in, we were signed up for the class and they simply chose our names out of hats, assigned us parts in scenes, sight unseen, and told us to memorize and show up.  I was Rosalind, who by American rights should not have been Rosalind.  He, this blond Adonis, this herculean, broad-shouldered, thin-waisted hunka 6'2"-ishness was by all rights anywhere Orlando.

He was also a complete jackass in real life and I'd gladly saw off his baby-making bits, or at least kick them really hard.

This is the joy of theatre.

It's a good thing that actors speak the poets' words, because actors can be stinky poo-poo heads in real life, but on-stage (especially the heroes) are, well, heroic.  No fourth wall needed; just some amazing poetry, thankyewverrymuch!  I bring this up only because this fellow, let's name him Phil (I really can't recall his name), gave me my idea of Orlando 2.0.  Where Orlando 1.0 came from my professor bitterly sucker punched in the gut by "love," Orlando 2.0 was the epitome of "forget his brain, he's hot" - which, I would argue, is typically how Orlandos are cast (at least in America).  

This idea of "cast the hot arm candy" seems to tidily clear up a few "problems" with Orlando's character:

  • Rosalind falls immediately in love with him

  • He's supposed to wrestle (shirtless?)

  • He doesn't seem that bright (can't figure out she's a girl)/stupid poetry

  • He's the arm candy, hence all the flavour he brings is in his abs

  • Eh.  I'm not adverse to well-toned abs, mind you, but abs alone cannot sustain a role.  (Although a gorgeous pair of clavicles didn't hurt me any when I was playing Rosalind enjoying his pair of clavicles in the scene!  It's all about the verisimilitude...or is it?  ;P)  If abs were everything, Matthew McConaughy's movies wouldn't consistently flop.  Nor am I advocating that Orlando should be as gruesome as possible, like this guy, but he doesn't have to be this guy either:

    Nor it is about the need to be nebbish, since after all he does have to defeat a multi-champ wrestler somehow:

    This is not how the wooing scene will look.  Although I kinda like her style here.

    In fact, just like Rosalind, Orlando isn't about how he looks but who he is and what he does.  I can't put it much better than this reviewer about the 2007 Oregon Shakespeare Festival presentation:
    Orlando, who can seem like a dim star when next to the supernova that is Rosalind, is finally her match in this production. Again, the 1930s setting works to his advantage. Here he’s the American-as-apple-pie hero, a straight-edged do-gooder whose words, though they lack Rosalind’s pinache, are heartfelt. Circa 1939 Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper would have been cast in the part. As incarnated by the prodigiously talented Danforth Comins (his commanding Richmond in 2005′s Richard III announced the arrival of a new leading man), Orlando’s sincerity is a source of strength. He doesn’t possess Benedick’s sparkling wit, or Duke Orsino’s Romantic melancholy, or Petruchio’s charismatic swagger, but he is lion-hearted like the Biblical David when battling the odds in a show-stopping wrestling sequence, and sweet as a stammering Jimmy Stewart when he can’t conjure the words to tell Rosalind how much he loves her. He is that rare Shakespearean protagonist—a man uncomfortable expressing himself through language. He clams up around Rosalind and composes rubbish poetry when he tries to put pen-to-paper. His odes in honor of his paramour’s grace and beauty “abuse” the trees of the forest and make rich fodder for Touchstone’s ready wit.

    Orlando is not a man of letters, he is a man of action, always doing something noble—whether defeating a Goliath in the ring, demanding at knifepoint a supper for his aged companion, Adam, or rescuing his estranged brother from a snake and then a lion. With energy and conviction, Comins makes Orlando’s squareness a strength instead of a liability. The audience wants to see this noble-hearted character succeed. As further testimony to Comins’ acting prowess, my sister, who played Rosalind in her high school’s production of As You Like It, observed that she wouldn’t have had to do much acting had Comins been her Orlando — the panting and the swooning would all have come naturally.
     So, who is our Orlando?  I think he has something in common with Romeo - or rather, he is the complete inverse of Romeo's trajectory, his mirror and opposite, as 'twere.  (I am, of course, talking about my - or rather, our - Romeo.  Not the ridiculata commonly perpetuated by folks who have been sucker punched in the gut by "love.")  Consider:

  • Dispossessed by his family

  • Goes to seek death or brutality wrestling

  • Banished to the woods

  • Swordfights his way out of danger

  • Discovers he's a lover/poet

  • Secretly woos his lady

  • Has altercation with his brother wherein he's wounded

  • Gets the girl and lives happily ever after

  • Romeo

  • Too entrapped by his family

  • Tries to break free through flying to love/poetry

  • Falls in love with Juliet/begins secret courtship/marriage

  • Challenged by her cousin, fatally wounds his best friend

  • Banished to Manuta

  • Loses the girl (to seeming death) and embraces his violent nature

  • Goes to his death or fight

  • Kills himself and dies tragically ever after

  • Orlando may not be facile with words, but he is facile with thought.  He's essentially good, and that's what draws Rosalind to him initially.  We women are like that: we see many very pretty faces, but we fall in love with fellows whose spirits shine through.  If they happen to have a pleasing casing, we're rather happy to enjoy that, too.  But Rosalind, especially, realizes that youth doesn't last ("Men are April when the woo, December when they wed") and that what is needed in her Orlando is someone who will appreciate her wit and her vivacity, and who will themselves be faithful, even be quite common about it...who will just stick around.  In Orlando, she finds such a radiant man, with this added advantage: that he can also see right through her.

    At the end of the day, regarding the casting of Rosalind and Orlando - and I know I'm beating an old drum here, but it's a freaking true drum, and perhaps the tru-i-est drum of them all - I want two people who are Rosalind and Orlando to each other, I want two people whom we can believe have fallen in love, I want chemistry and passion and inside jokes and winks and rolling eyes in exasperation - an old married couple who've just met, an endless balcony scene in the middle of a factory. 

    AYLI Script Changes...the easy version

    So, Jeremy brought it to my attention that what was meant to be just a description of the plot for As You Like It is waaaaaaaaaaaay too convoluted to make notes in your script by.  Here's an easier version.  And you can all hug Jeremy at read-through later.

    Transition to the forest
    2.4 through Touchstone: "And mine; but it grows something stale with me."
    2.4 resumed from Celia: "I pray you, one of you question yond man."
    3.2 just Orlando's sonnet
      3.2 resumed from Corin's "And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?"
      3.3 through Touchstone's "Sluttishness may come hereafter."
      Created transition to show Orlando going w/ Duke Senior & Duke Senior/Rosalind meeting
      3.3 resumed from Touchstone's "But be it as it may be, I will marry thee."
      3.4 (cutting Rosalind: "I met the duke yesterday and had much question with him: he asked me of what parentage I was; I told him, of as good as he; so he laughed and let me go.")
      Created transition, showing the bad guys and good guys fighting, esp. Orlando & Oliver meeting
      4.2 with no music?
      5.3 using "Whistle for the Choir" first and then the first few lines of dialogue
      5.4 all of the Duke Senior/Orlando lines, followed by Rosalind's "Patience once more while our compact is urged" to her exit, followed by Touchstone/Audrey entrance
        That's basically it.  Not as terrible as it seems, non?

        Thursday, May 26, 2011

        Plot for
        As You Like It

        The plot for As You Like It starts out strong and then seemingly fizzles. Also, some of the scene arrangements don't really flow from one to the other. Sooooo, here's the crazy new arrangement of the plot. Feel free to make notes in your scripts NOW!

        ·         Jacques recites “All the World’s a Stage” while Duke Senior, Rosalind and everyone of his court watches him
        ·         “Qué Sera Sera” plays, Duke Frederick’s men usurp Duke Senior
        ·         Duke Senior is imprisoned; Rosalind is imprisoned; Orlando is stripped of his rank
        ·         Duke Frederick and Celia take the throne
        ·         Duke Senior, Jacques and Amiens escape from prison and run off to the Forest of Arden

        Some of the scenes are reordered from the original.
        Scene numbers are marked at the beginning of the line.

        In the court
        ·         (1.1) Orlando rails against his lot in life, threatens his brother, Oliver, with violence unless he’s given his due
        ·         (1.1.) Oliver instead conspires with Charles the Wrestler to kill Orlando when Orlando goes to try his fortune wrestling at court
        ·         (1.2) Meanwhile, Celia tries to cheer up Rosalind who feels her imprisonment at her uncle’s hands – they are cheered up by Touchstone, a fool
        ·         (1.2) Le Beau, a popinjay courtier, warns the Princesses that the wrestling is going to take place where they’re speaking – the Princesses decide to stay to see it
        ·         (1.2) Rosalind sees Orlando, ready to win or die, and feels for him, falling instantly in like; Orlando, to his surprise, returns the feelings
        ·         (1.2) Orlando wrestles with Charles and overthrows him
        ·         (1.2) Duke Frederick asks who Orlando’s family is and when he learns that Orlando is the son of Sir Rowland de Boys (who stood against him in the usurpation), he’s incensed and orders Orlando to leave at once
        ·         (1.3) Still furious at being shown-up, Frederick turns his wrath on Rosalind whom he orders from the court on pain of banishment.
        ·         (1.3) Celia tries to reason with her father, even threatening to leave with Rosalind.  She is unsuccessful in convincing her father to be merciful, and so she plans with Rosalind to run away to the Forest of Arden where Duke Senior is.
        ·         (1.3) Celia and Rosalind decide to take on disguises as a peasant sister and brother respectively, and they also decide to bring along Touchstone to amuse them on their journey.
        ·         (2.3) Meanwhile, Orlando returns home victorious but with no victory.  He is met by Adam, his faithful old servant, who warns Orlando that Oliver plans to burn the barn where Orlando sleeps that night and so kill Orlando.
        ·         (2.3) Adam offers his service and all the money he has saved to fly with Orlando to the Forest of Arden that very night.  They leave.
        ·         (Created scene) Oliver enters Orlando’s home with guards and torches.  When he finds Orlando gone, he screams inside his cage.

        In the forest
        ·         (Created scene) We are quickly introduced to the natives and refugees in the forest.  Silvius chases after Phebe; Audrey sighs after such a love; Corin laughs at Silvius; Jacques wanders the countryside; Amiens strikes up a song and brings us into the camp of Duke Senior
        ·         (2.1) Duke Senior tries to rally his men, extolling the virtues of the forest.  He asks after Jacques and sets out to find him.
        ·         (2.2) Meanwhile back at court, Duke Frederick searches in vain for his daughter and Rosalind, and hears that Orlando has also gone to the forest
        ·         (2.6) Adam and Orlando enter, Orlando carrying Adam on his shoulders.  Orlando swears that he will find food for Adam, so long as Adam rests.  Orlando sets off.  Adam lies to one side of the stage, or possibly in the audience or behind a frame.
        ·          (2.4 – Part I) Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone come to the forest, quite tuckered out.  They observe Silvius mooning over Phebe and Corin laughing at Silvius.    Cut after Touchstone says: “And mine; but it grows something stale with me.”
        ·         (2.5) Amiens enters and sings, enchanting Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone with the beauty of the place
        ·         (2.5) Jacques enters and makes fun of Amiens.  Amiens warns that the Duke is coming.  Amiens leaves, and Jacques begins to go when….
        ·         (2.4 – Part II) Celia says: “I pray you, one of you question yond man” and they ask Corin for food.  Corin tells them that the pasture he tends is for sale and the refugees decide to buy it and make their new home there.
        ·         (2.4 – Adapted) While Celia and Rosalind are bartering with Corin, Jacques and Touchstone meet and have something similar to what Jacques describes in 2.7; they may even have the dialogue.  Before anyone can leave…
        ·         (2.7 - Adapted) Duke Senior, led by Amiens, comes into the clearing, looking for Jacques.  Celia and Rosalind hide with Corin; Rosalind much affected.  Eventually, Celia drags off Rosalind.
        ·         (2.7) Jacques briefly tries to hide behind Touchstone, but when he is discovered, he and Touchstone break up the “A fool, a fool!  I met a fool in the forest” speech as a sort of vaudeville routine.
        ·         (2.7) Duke Senior’s banquet begins just as Jacques is about to eat an apple, when suddenly Orlando bursts into the forest demanding they give him food and brandishing his sword.
        ·         (2.7)  The Duke and his lords easily avoid his wild blows, Jacques even fighting him with the apple, but at last Duke Senior calms Orlando down and explains who he is and that there is still civility in the woods.  Orlando apologizes and offers his service to Duke, with Duke Senior’s promise that Adam will be cared for.
        ·         (2.7) Amiens sings, transitioning us into:
        ·         (3.1) In the court, Duke Frederick has captured Oliver and threatens his life if he does not produce those who have fled to the forest.  Oliver swears that he hates his own brother – a statement which causes Duke Frederick surprising pain, and he is left weeping in the empty frame as –
        ·         (3.2 – Part I) Orlando, now well-fed, welcomed and given place by Duke Senior has been scribbling verses to Rosalind, whose favour he wears.  In his joy, he rushes about to hang the verses all over the forest, exclaiming: “Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.” 



        In the Forest

        ·         (Created) Orlando continues hanging verses, which Celia and Jacques both witness
        ·         (3.2 – Part II) Touchstone attempts to acclimate to country life, but he simply can’t stand it.  He enters into a country mouse/city mouse routine with Corin.  Audrey may wander by and catch Touchstone’s eye (Audrey as Corin’s neice?).
        ·         (3.2 – Part III) Rosalind and Celia enter, having found Orlando’s verses and they read them.  Rosalind wonders who’s posting love letters to her, and Celia lets spill that it’s Orlando.
        ·         (3.2 – Part IV) Rosalind and Celia hide as Orlando enters with Jacques.  Jacques is furious at Orlando for harming the trees, while Orlando is incensed that Jacques keeps pulling his love-notes down.
        ·         (3.2 – Part V) Jacques leaves, and Rosalind decides to meet Orlando in her manly guise, Ganymede.  She convinces him to woo her “as if” she were Rosalind, and he – thinking that Ganymede looks an awful lot like Rosalind – agrees.  All exeunt.
        ·         (3.2 – Background) Possibly, Oliver sees this scene, or the end of it?
        ·         (3.3 – Part I) Touchstone attempts to seduce Audrey, since there’s nothing and no one better to do, but Audrey resists, claiming that she’s an honest woman.  Cut at Touchstone’s “Sluttishness may come hereafter.”
        ·         (Created) Amiens enters with a song heralding Duke Senior and his court’s entrance.  They meet Rosalind and Orlando with Celia as they lovers are about to start their strange courtship.  Orlando bows to Duke Senior and says to Rosalind that he will come that morning.
        ·         (3.4 - Adapted) Taking Rosalind’s words from 3.4, we see the conversation between Duke Senior and Rosalind.  He asks her what parentage she may be; she says “As good as you.”  Duke Senior laughs and goes with his court and Orlando.  All exeunt.
        ·         (3.4 – Adapted Transition) Oliver and his manservant Dennis start to leave; Jacques remains behind
        ·         (3.3 – Part II) Begin at Touchstone’s “But be it as it may be, I will marry thee.”  Touchstone attempts to wed Audrey with Sir Oliver Martext, who may be Dennis, Oliver’s manservant, mistaken in the forest.
        ·         (3.3 – Part II) Jacques stays behind to watch the fool get married, but is disgusted by this farce of a ceremony and interrupts it, urging Touchstone to learn what marriage is.  Touchstone drags Audrey away.
        ·         (3.4) Rosalind waits impatiently for Orlando to come to their first wooing session, and Celia voices the concern that Orlando may not actually be in love with her
        ·         (3.4) Corin enters and to cheer them up suggests that they go see the foolish “love” of Silvius for Phebe
        ·         (3.5) Silvius moons after Phebe while Corin, Celia and Rosalind watch.  Rosalind, disgusted by the scornful Phebe, berates the shepherdess which turns that hard-hearted woman on.  Rosalind runs away from Phebe’s advances.
        ·         (3.5) Phebe, undeterred, convinces Silvius to help her win the love of Ganymede/Rosalind.
        ·         (4.1 – Part I) In running away from Phebe, Rosalind runs smack dab into Jacques (who probably has Dennis in hand, ready to take him to justice with Duke Senior).  Jacques disposes of Dennis (sitting on shim?), and the two have a conversation about whether it’s better to be optimistic or pessimistic.
        ·         (4.1 – Part II) They part ways, Jacques dragging off Dennis, as Orlando freed from his service to Duke Senior runs on ready for his first wooing lesson.  Oliver and Charles may follow from a safe distance.
        ·         (4.1 – Part II) Orlando tries to make Rosalind reveal herself as a herself, but Rosalind is determined to remain in charge.  To every romantic notion Orlando has, she offers up a counter practicality.
        ·         (4.1 – Part III) Suddenly, sure that she has lost Orlando, Rosalind demands that Orlando marry her right then and there, with herself as Ganymede and Celia as the priest.  Orlando is loathe, and Celia refuses, but Rosalind/Ganymede pushes through her strange marriage anyway.
        ·         (4.1 – Part III) Just before they are supposed to kiss, Orlando pulls away “remembering” that he’s supposed to be with Duke Senior.  Rosalind is upset, but can do nothing.
        ·         (Created) As Orlando leaves, he is beset by Oliver and Charles, as LeBeau and Frederick look on, and Jacques enters with Dennis in tow.  There is a battle in which Oliver’s life is briefly in danger (from Jacques?  LeBeau?) and Orlando has the opportunity to kill his brother.  However, he chooses to save Oliver instead.  As the brothers are running away, Charles (?) swipes at Orlando and our hero is wounded.  Oliver fights to save Orlando and carries him away, as Duke Senior and his men enter and imprison Charles and Dennis and bear Orlando away.  They leave Oliver alone in the forest.  Frederick and LeBeau may approach Oliver, and he may run away.
        ·         (4.2 – Totally Repurposed) This scene is typically about Jacques’ being upset at the lords’ deer hunting which was this huge political metaphor at the time.  However, we’re going to have that while Charles and Dennis are in prison together, Charles (threatens to?) slit Dennis’ throat.  Jacques who is on guard realizes this,  Charles admits to doing it, and Jacques orders him to “sing” – e.g., all threats and cloak and dagger and stuff
        ·         (5.1) But before anything can happen, Touchstone and Audrey stumble into the scene, Audrey upset that Touchstone hasn’t married her yet.  Seeing Charles, she points him out as the “man who loves her.”
        ·         (5.1) Charles, totally taken off-guard, is challenged by Touchstone who beats up the would-be wrestler, totally impressing Audrey and saving Jacques the need for violence.
        ·         (4.3 – Part I) Rosalind and Celia tromp in, Rosalind much distressed that Orlando is so late to revisit her.  They are met by Silvius who bears a saucy letter from Phebe, wherein she declares her love for Ganymede and her utter disdain for Silvius.  This is news for Silvius, upon whom Rosalind takes little pity.
        ·         (4.3 – Part II) Just then, Oliver rushes in with the news of Orlando’s wound.  He is utterly besmitten by Celia (he may have been so before while stalking Orlando) and she is intrigued by him.  On learning that Orlando has been hurt, Rosalind faints, beginning her return to femininity.  She begs to be taken to Orlando.
        ·         (5.3 - Adapted) Audrey has one final test of Touchstone’s willingness to really marry her.  He arrives to woo her through song, with the help of Amiens and whomever else (Charles?  Dennis?) singing the Fratellis’ “Whistle for the Choir.”  Between his humility, embracing of country life, and softshoe wooing, Audrey accepts Touchstone’s honest proposal.
        ·         (Created) To the music, Oliver and Celia meet and may join in part of the dance.  Certainly Oliver swiftly wooes her, proposes to her, and they kiss.
        ·         (5.2 – Part I) Rosalind and Orlando see the sweetness of the two other couples.  Orlando asks Oliver about his strange and sudden change of heart, and Oliver admits that he plans to give up all claims to their shared title.
        ·         (5.2 – Part II) Rosalind arrives, recovering from her faint, and she and Orlando marvel at their siblings’ sudden love.  They ponder whether they can get married in the state they’re in, and Orlando says that he can no longer live by thinking of her as Rosalind.
        ·         (5.2 – Part III) Just then, Phebe and Silvius barge in, Phebe demanding that Ganymede love her.  Each lover declares their desire for their beloved until Rosalind stops them all, promising that on the morrow all shall be married and all things made right.
        ·         (5.3 – Part I) Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, who have been overlooking the previous scenes unseen to one another, are now very affected by their daughters’ loves.  Duke Senior steps forward and speaks with Orlando about Rosalind, suggesting that Ganymede might be Rosalind.  Orlando is hopeful but wary about Ganymede’s transformation.  (This dialogue skips Rosalind’s interruption.)
        ·         (5.3 – Part II) Rosalind enters, still as Ganymede, and reminds Orlando, Phebe and Silvius of their promises to marry whom she tells them to.  All agree and Rosalind promises to work some enchantment and produce everyone’s loves.
        ·         (5.4 – Part III) Jacques announces another pair of lovers, Touchstone and Audrey, who have also come to be part of the marriage ceremonies.  Touchstone is welcomed (and knighted?) by Duke Senior.  In place of Touchstone’s silly pratter about the Lie Direct, etc. which is just there to let the girls change their costumes, we’ll have Jacques’ “All the world’s a stage” speech.
        ·         (5.4 – Part IV) Rosalind re-enters (not with the random god Hymen which just doesn’t go over with this crowd) and Jacques (?) takes Hymen’s words.  Rosalind is restored to herself and reunites with Duke Senior and with Orlando.  Phebe agrees to marry Silvius.  Jacques (? Or Adam or Corin?) act as priest/god and marry the four couples.
        ·         (5.4 – Part V) Suddenly, DeBeau arrives and declares that s/he is the forgotten sibling of Orlando and Oliver.  S/he brings the news that Duke Frederick has had a complete change of heart (maybe Duke Frederick takes Hymen’s words?  Dunno….) and is giving up the throne to Duke Senior, and is taking up a religious life. 
        ·         (5.4 – Part VI) Upon hearing this, Jacques declares that he will go with Duke Frederick to take up a religious life as well.  Duke Senior tries to keep Jacques with him, but Jacques challenges Duke Senior to come with them in their religious life, instead.  Duke Senior agrees and while the couples dance, takes his quiet leave, putting the future of the world in the children’s hands.
        ·         (5.4 – Part VII – Created) The rest of the company celebrate the marriages with a dance.  Duke Frederick reveals himself during the dance, and the brothers make peace before leaving with Jacques.  Rosalind gives up her father, as does Celia.  Everyone exits but Orlando and Rosalind, who must struggle once again with the loss of her father in the face of winning her life.
        ·         (5.4 – Part VIII) Rosalind pulls herself together to give the epilogue. Orlando is her support as they walk into their future.

        The End

        Sunday, May 22, 2011

        Inspirations for As You Like It

        So, I thought I'd put in a few things which are inspiring me at the moment. Visually, I'm thinking of frames and boxes. In the beginning, Duke Senior, Rosalind and Orlando will be boxed in separately, to "Que Sera Sera" by Pink Martini. I love that the music is haunting (I first heard this rendition on Dead Like Me, which pilot a friend showed me), and just a little off. Among the things we'll see:

      • Jacques center stage, on what will later be revealed to be a tree stump, delivering the first few lines of "All the world's a stage" while Duke Senior, Rosalind and those on his side watch.
      • Then the usurpers come in and take over, literally boxing in Rosalind and throwing Duke Senior behind a frame/box
      • Simultaneously, Orlando will be stripped of his finery and put into servant's clothes, also in a frame/box
      • Rosalind will be stuffed into a corset and will have her left hand tied behind her back while Duke Frederick and Celia take their thrones
      • Duke Senior and his men will break free

        What these frames will lead to later, though, is Rosalind's first meeting with Orlando (with Rosalind maybe dressed in Orlando-like clothes?) something like this (Rosalind being behind the frame), so that Orlando meeting Rosalind is something like meeting himself.

        There's an Alice in Wonderland element to it all, both in dress and in the looseness of the plot past Act I. Also look to the Paramour video, and the Lolita look in Japan.

        One of the things that I'd also like to include is some modern songs for Amiens interludes. I'm definitely using "Whistle for the Choir" for one of the songs between Touchstone and Audrey (possibly taking the place of the weird "We've killed a deer!" song that had politcal overtones but is pretty useless for our purposes).

        Other songs I like are:

        I'm sure there's more - but this is a good start!

      • As You Like It: Characters

        Who knows how accurate my ideas of the characters will be by the time we get to August! But this is what I'm thinking of re: each of the characters in As You Like It.

      • Rosalind

        Rosalind is hyper-intelligent, but shy and very skittish when she is usurped by her uncle, Duke Frederick. When she first sees Orlando, she is immediately smitten by him, perhaps seeing in him something of her own plight. However, she is almost unable to stand up for herself when confronted with banishment or death by her uncle, and relies upon her worldly cousin, Celia, to assist her in running away to the forest. Once in the forest, freed from the court, freed even from her own identity as the daughter of one Duke or the captive-niece of another, freed to take on the role of "Ganymede" a young boy who thinks very little of romantic notions of love, Rosalind comes into her true strength. However, like those who wear a character mask too long, she falls into the danger of becoming too like the disdainful Ganymede, and it takes the near-death of Orlando to shake her out of her play-acting.

        Of all the characters, she is affected most by her journey "into the woods." All her strengths might also be her vices. Being so long controlled, at first she seeks to control Orlando by dictating the terms of their courtship; since she is in disguise as a boy, she can stop his kisses; since she feels freed from everything in civility, she tries to strong arm Celia into marrying them even while she's dressed as Ganymede; since she is finally free to speak her mind, she finds herself suddenly pursued by Phebe whom she disdains; since she is free to be a man, she begins to hate women, and therefore is in danger of hating herself. However, Orlando calls Rosalind back to herself, happy to join in the chaste game of courtship until it ceases to be a game, at which point he calls her back to femininity. Celia steps back from being Rosalind's all-in-all to allow Rosalind to join herself to a husband and begin a new life. Jacques warns her of the dangers of being too melancholy. Duke Senior gives over all of his lands to his daughter for her to rule, having taken what is good from both worlds, from both regimes, and to bring them together in a new, true, good and honest rule.

      • Orlando

        When Duke Senior is dispossessed by his brother, so is Orlando. He chafes under his sudden servility (he's sort of "Cinderella-ed"), and although he'd much prefer to be a poet and a scholar, he has to learn to survive in a harsh and violent world. At first, he tries to do so by becoming harsh and violent himself, besting his brother Oliver and then the court wrestler, Charles, in physical matches. As soon as he meets Rosalind, however, he is undone and the true inner poet is revealed.

        It takes until he makes it into the woods, however, and in the safety of Duke Senior's camp, to allow Orlando to revel in his poetic lover's nature. He agrees to woo "Ganymede" in the guise of "Rosalind," all the while suspecting that Ganymede IS Rosalind. He tries several times to penetrate her disguise and is a little off-put by Rosalind's protestations of a practical view of love, but by the end comes around to her point of view that love is a choice and not just a poorly written poem. Orlando finds his brother, Oliver, in the woods and despite Oliver's attempts to kill him, Orlando has now learnt that true masculinity lies in mercy and saves Oliver, although it costs Orlando a deep wound. The two brothers reconcile and Orlando's wound is sufficient to cause Rosalind to give up her masquerade as Ganymede and to marry Orlando as herself.

      • Celia

        Celia is very much a girly-girl and a city-girl at that. She flourishes in the court under her father's usurpation and can't understand why Rosalind doesn't also flourish. However, her love for her clever cousin leads Celia to join Rosalind in the forest when Rosalind is banished by her father. Celia is strong against her father, Duke Frederick, and enjoys the cynical nature of Touchstone. Once in the forest, however, Celia is completely at a loss, giving way to her cousin Rosalind's sudden freedom. She is concerned as Rosalind becomes a different creature in the forest, as she starts believing her own fiction of being Ganymede, and she works against Rosalind's sudden impetuous decisions as best she can. Finally, Celia meets the reformed Oliver and falls desperately in love with him. Both of them decide to stay in the forest and to give their places of honour to Rosalind and Orlando.

      • Oliver

        The brother of Orlando, Oliver is in complete support of Duke Frederick and is probably part of the usurpation. As part of the overthrow, Oliver makes his brother, Orlando, into nothing better than a servant. When he learns that Orlando means to win renown or death by wrestling at the court, Oliver gives Charles leave to kill Orlando in the match. But when Orlando wins, Oliver plans to burn down Orlando's stable where he sleeps and so kill him. Eagerly he goes into the forest at Duke Frederick's command to hunt down and kill Orlando, but as he enters, he is set upon by wild beasts (or men?) and left for dead. Orlando rescues him, despite all Oliver has done, and Oliver has a complete change of heart, solidified by his strong and sudden love of Celia.

      • Touchstone

        Touchstone is the fool of the court, who survives the usurpation by being apolitical. He is something of a fop and doesn't care at all for country life. He's a lech, who tries to get the first girl he can find in the country into the sack...but she proves cleverer than he and ensnares him into a true marriage. Despite his best efforts, while he is in the country he is affected by it to become something resembling a better man than the foolish courtier he had begun. He makes up a trio with Rosalind and Celia.

      • Duke Senior

        The most benevolent, awesome Dad and Duke there is, he is forcibly arrested by his brother, Duke Frederick, at the top of the play and imprisoned with Jacques and Amiens. However, he bursts free and escapes into the Forest of Arden, there to live like Robin Hood. In fact, he so takes to the woods, that it's my dream to really dress this fellow up like Robin Hood...much to his lords sorrow. He is so full of civility that even when Orlando comes blustering in and waving his sword about, he simply avoids the sword and draws Orlando into his court. At the end, he makes peace with his brother and gives up his throne to Rosalind and Orlando and joins Duke Frederick and Jacques in a religious life. Could be played by a woman, but I'd prefer a guy!

      • Duke Frederick

        The villain of our piece, Duke Frederick is cut from the same cloth as Claudius in Hamlet: smiling whenever in public but ruthless once the doors are closed. He loves violent sport, as seen by his affinity for watching to-the-death wrestling matches, and he is ruthless in his quest for dominance. At the top of the play, we see his usurpation of his brother, Duke Senior's, throne, how he imprisoned Rosalind and by extension brought about the ruination of Orlando. Once his anger is ignited, it knows no bounds, as when he finds out who Orlando's father is, he immediately sets out to destroy Orlando - and takes out his wrath on Rosalind by threatening death if she stays in court longer than an hour. However, half-way through the play, when he goes nuts hearing Oliver (whom he is threatening) say that "I never loved my brother," Frederick has a violent change of heart and realizes just what he has done that has caused the downfall of his entire family. By the end of the play, he repents, relinquishes the country to his brother, and pursues a religious life. May be played by a woman.

      • Le Beau/Jacques de Bois

        These are two separate roles which will almost certainly be combined into one. The role may be played by a woman. Le Beau is a French courtier in the Duke's court who seems to change allegiances to Duke Frederick once he takes over the throne. At first, he seems a laughable popinjay (like someone from Tartuffe), but he immediately proves himself a good man hiding beneath a ridiculous disguise, as he warns Rosalind and Celia about the dangers approaching and helps them make their escape.

        Although he stays in Duke Frederick's court (so it seems), he may be instrumental in Duke Frederick having his conversion, and he certainly takes the opportunity to recreate himself as the "lost brother (or sister)" of the de Bois brothers, Orlando and Oliver, who has come with the happy news that Duke Frederick has abdicated and had a change of heart. I flove this character, because rather like how Mentieth was played in Ryan Gonor's 2009 Macbeth, the character is very cloak-and-dagger, a good man in a hard place.

      • Jacques

        Is known as the "melancholy fool" and may be best thought of as cut from the same cloth as Hamlet (if Hamlet went through the whole play of Hamlet...and survived). He is an old friend of Duke Senior, a sensitive soul much in touch with nature, a restless man, a wanderer, a cynic who thinks little of love but is much taken with Rosalind as an intellectual equal. His is the "All the world's a stage" speech, which will begin the show and figure in the middle (where it's supposed to go) and again at the end. Jacques would have been played by Shakespeare's second "clown" Robert Armin (who came after William Kempe who played the slapstick roles of Bottom and Dogberry), who was known to be more intellectual and sarcastic (he would have also played Feste the Jester in Twelfth Night and the Porter in Macbeth).

        Jacques is an enigma: like Touchstone, he's a courtier who's out of place and hates it. And yet, he loves nature so much that he's a prototypical vegetarian and makes arguments against hunting deer (who are the natural inhabitants of the woods, and so man by hunting them are usurpers). Duke Senior sternly reprimands Jacques for having done some terrible misdeeds in his youth, and yet the two are fast friends and by the end of the play both Dukes and Jacques retire to a cave to start a religious community. He scorns love, particularly Orlando's, finding it utterly foolish - and yet is giddily delighted at Touchstone's ridiculous presence in the woods. I would prefer to have a man play this role if possible.

      • Amiens

        The Allen-a-Dale of Duke Senior's band of merry men, Amiens is a lord who followed Duke Senior to the forest and now spends his time pursuing his true passion as a minstrel in the woods. He provides musical interludes between scenes showing the passing of time, and like Duke Senior is one of the few who fully embraces their Robin Hood banishment to the woods. The role will probably be played by a woman.

      • Adam

        The servant of Orlando, he is elderly, nearly on death's door, and a true man to the de Bois family, to his young master, and to the true Duke. Think of Samwise Gamgee at an advanced age. Courageously, he suffers with his master, Orlando, through thick and thin, and their relationship is like a father and a son. Adam risks everything to save Orlando and bring him to the safety of the forest, and for his sake, Orlando risks everything to save his manservant. Eventually, they all come to the true Duke Senior's camp and find peace there. He may have a moment when he recognizes Dennis and Oliver in the forest. The role may be played by a woman.

      • Dennis

        The servant of Oliver, Orlando's treacherous older brother, this fellow is young and likewise ambitious-villainous like his master. He is the only who happily sets a trap for Orlando after that man's victory at court, and he joins Oliver in searching the forest to bring down Orlando. However, he will be caught up in Audrey's scheme to ensnare Touchstone by creating the false priest, Sir Oliver Martext or a former lover, William, from Dennis when he is lost in the woods. The role may be played by a woman.

      • William

        Ostensibly a sometime lover of Audrey, William will probably be doubled with Dennis or Charles as someone who gets lost in the forest and finds himself pointed out by Audrey as a "former lover" in order to make Touchstone jealous. He then gets beat up by Touchstone, even while pretending to be a humble farmer. The role was probably originally played by William Shakespeare himself and is often a weird but comical interlude in the play where Touchstone who normally is something of a ponce finally gets his hands dirty and claims his woman. It would have made Elizabethan audiences laugh to see the playwright beaten up and to assert that the city was better than the country...even in the country...but it's an odd digression towards a character we didn't see before and won't see again. Hence, William will be an escapee from Duke Frederick's court, who was previously a persecutor of our heroes, hence we will happily see him get his comeuppance.

      • Phebe

        A shrew, Phebe has the highest opinion of herself and her looks, whether she deserves them or not. She enjoys the attentions of every young man who crosses her path, and enjoys playing with their emotions (particularly the devoted Silvius). When Rosalind, dressed as the man Ganymede, berates Phebe for being a shrew, the shepherdess is immediately smitten with the only person to ever stand up to her, and manipulates Silvius to help her "win" the affections of Ganymede. She is in opposition to Audrey who is homely but smart; Phebe is moderately good looking but easily deceived by what she wants to see.

      • Silvius

        The lovelorn suitor of Phebe, Silvius is a young shepherd utterly besotted by his disdainful shepherdess. He's a complete innocent, very wide-eyed and adoring of his ideal of love...except that he's chosen a total shrew to pour all his affections on. The audience should feel very bad for this fellow, the "Romeo" of the forest, whose idealism contrasts with Rosalind's practical approach to romantic love.

      • Audrey

        A homely but clever country lass, she seems a little slow to understand situations, but very shrewd once she does. She is wooed by Touchstone who originally just wants a roll in the hay with her, but she sets up Sir Oliver Martext and then William as obstacles to Touchstone to turn him into the man she wants to marry.

      • Corin

        An older shepherd who's very happy with his quiet country life. He sees through the young people's shenanigans (e.g., Rosalind's male disguise) but tolerates their temporary nonsense. He may be doubled as a lord from Duke Frederick's court in the first act, as a refugee who's sought a better life in the country. The role may be played by a woman.

      • Charles

        The self-assured, pragmatic court wrestler, a fellow who's not violent for violence's sake, but is simply very good at his job, and unwilling to lose his reputation to another. Politically, he sides with whomever's in charge. He will probably be doubled with Sir Oliver Martext or William.

      • Sir Oliver Martext

        Typically, this character is portrayed as an elderly alcoholic dotard preacher, who may even have a wandering eye for Audrey. In this production, he will probably be doubled with another character (such as Charles or Dennis) who has wandered into the forest and gets caught off guard and caught up by Touchstone demanding he marry the countrified courtier and his country lass. He's almost certainly set up by Audrey, who provides a series of obstacles for Touchstone to overcome in order to marry her legitimately. The role may be played by a woman.

      • Thursday, May 19, 2011

        As You Like It: Why I Love It

        As many know, I had the opportunity to play Rosalind (in part) when I was in England in August of 2000. It was a heady experience, even with just a taste of what it means to play this character. Every night I read all of her scenes to better understand her. Various other folks on the tour with us, old stage folk, lent me books by the great British actresses discussing what it meant to play Shakespeare's heroines. I practiced my lines constantly, looking for nuances, making sense of the smallest turn of adjective. I performed in Hyde Park, using a large oak tree as my scene partner - onlookers be damned.

        My directors were brilliant - very kind, very precise and yet also open to experimentation. I was one of the few who came to England with my lines actually memorized (in part because I'm That Student, in part because I couldn't believe I wasn't cast as Maid/Dowager #37) and I remember what Vivien said to the other students (legit actors all) at the end of our first session: "If you want to see someone really enjoying herself in a role, look at Emily." I'm going to sound a lot like so many of the young ladies I've talked to over the years regarding significant theatrical roles: I was worth looking at (something I never was in college acting class).

        Nothing was EVER said about my actual look. This is something that's terribly rare in American theatre and (seemingly) par for the course in England: if you're cast, and you're doing the job, it's presumed that You Can Do The Role, looks be damned. Which is why they have the brilliance of Emma Thompson and we have Blonde Girl #734821923735986021.

        At the end of it all, after our performance catty-corner to Shakespeare's birthplace, in front of folks who'd seen The Greats perform this role and so many others, I remember sitting at the hotel bar with everyone else, celebrating. I found myself next to Vivien and she said to me that I'd done a really great job, that everyone else was very impressed (and you must remember that the folks I'd performed in front of had just a day before walked out of a Stratford performance of AYLI by the end of the second scene; these were folks who'd seen Dame Maggie Smith perform the role...And Were Still Talking About It). She also said, and this blew me away, that my Rosalind was very sweet, and "very sexy." My head was reeling from this so much that I actually missed whatever compliment Homer, our tour leader, tried to give me (I'm still kicking myself about that - stupid, young, shy Emily!).

        Now, I write all this because as much as I've wanted to put on this play for 10+ years...I haven't done so, precisely because I had such a profound experience with even the barest HINT of Rosalind, that I was pretty sure I wouldn't do justice to the play, or I'd try to make the actress playing Rosalind play MY Rosalind, or something equally stupid. I still worry about that. But with these summer shows, I "go with my gut" as to what show is right for the actors I probably have. And the cosmos, God, serendipity or what you will, nudged me on the shoulder and said, "As You Like It. That's what you're supposed to do."

        And then I had this idea about boxes and prisons (thinking how Rosalind/Hamlet are ying/yang and my next Hamlet is probably going to be focused on being boxed in and insomnia)...and then I thought, as always, of Richard II that I saw on that same trip to Stratford and how they repeated the strongest speech in part time and again (in AYLI's case "All the world's a stage"), and I thought of Branaugh's way of showing the usurpation, and about how Sam West's version (of which I've only read reviews) really delved about the different hats we juggle in life....

        Then while driving back from the desk job I had in September, I was listening to this song "Shattered" (which I am totally using as the theme for my next Hamlet) on repeat, because cubicle-world is soul-sucking. So I was totally living with my next Hamlet beating against the clear box he'll be put into while people do scenes around and on top of him. However, I wanted to get out of that funk, and the next song the iPod played was Pink Martini's cover of "Que Sera Sera"...which suddenly made the opening of AYLI spring to life:

        What are the boxes we are put in (usurpation), the boxes society puts us in (Rosalind's awesomeness stifled = Victorian clothing in my mind), the boxes envy can put us in (Orlando being stripped of his rights) - and then Jules added that sometimes even when we're free, we put ourselves into boxes rather than face freedom. E.g., Touchstone might make a cardboard box for himself to live in while he has the whole woods to inhabit.

        Suddenly, I realized what brought this summer's As You Like It together: freedom and what we do or DON'T do with it. When we're given the opportunity to sever ourselves from everything - even from our own identities - how do we cope? What do we become? Do we lose ourselves (as Rosalind nearly does), do we tether ourselves to something else just to be tethered (Touchstone), do we find freedom to reveal who we are (Orlando), do we seize the opportunity to reinvent ourselves (Oliver/Celia) or do we find that we were never really bound (Jacques)?

        I love As You Like It. I love that it's an imperfect play, structurally. There's all this plot upfront...and then from Act II on it's Elizabethan vaudeville. It was written hand-in-glove with Hamlet, like Midsummer Night's Dream is the comic look at Romeo and Juliet. As You Like It asks the question: What if all of the folks from tragic Denmark were forced to LIVE? I love Rosalind. I love that she deals with what it means to be a woman, what true love - not just fanciful love, but true, honest-to-goodness, thick-and-thin LOVE - is. I love that it's a gentle story of redemption, of civility existing even once - or especially since - it's the end of the world as we know it.

        I love that it's about change, but instead of copping out and saying that All Change Is Good Because All Change Is Good (cult of progress), or saying Only Backwards is Forwards!, or The World's Screwed Up: Let's Redefine It...As You Like It looks life square in the face and says, "Change is change. Once it's happened, you have to deal with it and decide what's worth saving and what's worth fixing and what you should apologize for and what should be abandoned from our time within the woods." Liberty is not an individual thing. Liberty is to live not just "as thou likest it," but as YOU, the whole society, needs it. Liberty is the freedom to do what is right, not just what is convenient. From true liberty comes true happiness, and true happiness is, frankly, how I'd like it.

        Friday, May 06, 2011

        As You Like It: RSC Performance Tips

        Again, when I was in England, I got to perform as Rosalind in 3.2 - her first scene as the boy Ganymede having a very strange conversation with Orlando. I'd like to share some of the notes my teachers, Vivien Heilbron and Bernard Lloyd gave to me.

      • Rosalind is an enchantress. She controls a situation and takes over it. She gives commands. There's something to her saying she had an uncle who was a magician - and she refers to it several times. This is not to say there's REALLY a Hogwartsian motif here, but that she has Morganian presence.

      • The more Rosalind plays Ganymede, the more she becomes Ganymede. So at first she's stumbling, trying out different things, and then settling on the complete opposite of herself. Rosalind is a romantic; Ganymede not only holds women in low account, but he actively works against love. As the show goes on, Rosalind is therefore in danger of losing herself to her Ganymede persona.

      • They mentioned that it was important to keep an eye on what Celia did during the wooing scenes. She's silent - and most directors simply sideline her. This is a choice, and not a bad one, because it's a trick and a half to include Celia in as a silent partner to a two-person wooing scene! However, both my directors said that the best productions of AYLI they'd seen were those where Celia was not sidelined but equally integral to the wooing scenes. Unfortunately, our Celia was sidelined...but that's OK. Challenge accepted!

      • They were also really good at helping me (Rosalind) find moments when she breaks character and then fights to find Ganymede again. They also suggested emphasizing the word "Rosalind" whenever she says it - sort of breathless at first when she gets down to brass tacks and makes sure Orlando really likes her and then rather cynically when she suggest that he woo her in the name of "Rosalind." The lifting of that one word makes a world of difference.

      • They often mentioned just how SMART Rosalind is and equated her intelligence, wit, and humour with Hamlet - saying that basically playing Rosalind is to play the female Hamlet. I quite agree. Hence they advocated being a quick thinker - as she says, "As soon as I think I must speak." The process from her mind to her mouth is almost instantaneous, and it's always clever.

      • However, they were also adamant that Orlando was completely oblivious (a la Orsino in Twelfth Night). While this is one - and the most frequent (come to think of it, I haven't seen an Orlando who figures it out...although one MUST exist) ways to play Orlando, I think it both works against the text and undermines Rosalind's kickassness. Let me 'splain.

        1) If Rosalind is the female Hamlet for all intents and purposes, then the fellow she falls in love with had damn well BETTER be just as fabulous and intelligent as herself. (I know. I know. Ophelia on the page is as much of a wet blanket as Orlando, and the two of them probably would have lived happily ever after, while Rosalind would have smacked Hamlet around and gotten him out of that court and they'd make some hyper-intelligent kids who would take back over their respective countries and make Europe and consequently America and Australia really fabulous nations...but Shakespeare can't give us everything. Anyway.) Basically, if Rosalind falls in love with a fellow who's so dumb as to believe that a doublet makes a man, then Rosalind's own mental acuity is likewise diminished.

        2) Orlando being smarter than he appears is shown by several things: he's street smart and tends to see things for what they are (see Act I), he's able to keep up with Rosalind's opening sally which is basically a stand-up comedian routine after which he says, "Where dwell you, pretty youth," and then most everything else he says is lovey-dovey. In the second wooing scene he starts by trying to kiss her, and in the four lovers scene Rosalind calls him out for saying to her, "If this be true why blame you me to love you?" To which she replies, "To whom do you speak, "If this be true...." And he answers, "To her that is not here...nor doth not hear." I think Orlando isn't fully convinced of who or what his Ganymede/Rosalind is, but I think that he's testing her, enjoying her liberty in men's clothes and wondering what's going to happen next. But at a certain point - at the fake marriage when he becomes sure it's really her, he actually grows frustrated because he wants to marry ROSALIND, not Ganymede. I think Orlando is terribly swell and ought to be played that way!

        Some things they left out, but I've since discovered:

      • Rosalind needs to be sexy. She's really enjoying the freedom of behaving any way she likes because she's dressed as a guy. Hence she's SO much bolder than she would have been when she meets Orlando.

      • When I directed Jill in Rosalind's ending 3.2 speech "Yes, one and in this manner" we actually had Rosalind rather aggressively attacking Orlando by "clean as a sound sheep's heart." I like sexually aggressive Rosalind/Ganymede...who then pulls back and goes all, "Um, I mean, I hate all love! Yeah...." The bipolarity that's required of Rosalind is SO much fun!

      • Working the 3.5 Rosalind speech with Marla, we found some fun spots where she becomes aware that her inherent masculinity which is taking over her (e.g., by accident grabbing her bosom), she's getting herself into a pickle. Her speech is as full of back and forth, Rosalind/Ganymede...but we can already see Rosalind disappearing in the speech. Almost, Ganymede could be saying with Rosalind, "I am falser than vows made in wine." I wonder if there's a bit of rising terror at who she's becoming (as well as Phebe pursuing her) there.

      • Most recently when I gave my line-endings lesson, the final group that performed the four lovers scene had a cute moment when Rosalind on one of her "And I for no woman" lines grabbed Orlando and used him as a meat shield...AND tried to make it a "hey, I like you!" moment. Something to recapture.

      • Thursday, May 05, 2011

        As You Like It: RSC Hints

        When I was in England, the show my teachers (former RSC actors) kept circling around to was As You Like It. Some of their wisdom here:

      • Tony Church said that when he played Duke Frederick all those years ago, they took intermission in a very strange place. They ended just after his final scene - when he's throwing about Oliver and demanding he go in search of Orlando to kill him. However, they took an extra second and had Tony consider what he'd just done, realize the enormity of brother killing brother, and break down in tears (the beginning of his conversion) - and draw the intermission curtain on that. I'm not sure if I want to end there or after Orlando's "Hang there my verse."

      • David Rintoul, who played Mr. Darcy in the 1970's BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (in which he looked like a corpse - age has treated him VERY well and he's all sorts of broad and robust and happy nowadays). Anywho, I remember one class he jumped up in front of us and from out of nowhere said that it's always far more interesting to have juxtapositions on stage. For example, he said, and he drew up two of us and had them look all enthusiastic behind him as he launched into Duke Senior's "Sweet are the uses of adversity" speech. (The Robin Hood line was very evident in how he delivered it. The man had PRESENCE.) It was good! Next, he had his small band of merry men look absolutely pained, bored and Not Happy To Be In The Woods...and to see that speech come alive, to see the comedy from the juxtaposition, and to understand that Duke Senior isn't just expostulating but convincing convinced me to: 1) choose the second form of the speech for ourselves; and 2) put Duke Senior, if at all possible, in Robin Hood gear. Tights and all.

      • Tony Church also went on and on about the text (I mean on and on in a very good sense. He said that unlike most of Shakespeare's plays, there's only one folio (version) of AYLI. Consequently, you don't have the pesky problems of, say, Hamlet where people say, "But no, it's 'the pangs of misprised love' or 'the pangs of despised love' " depending on which text you're drawing from... at the moment. He pointed out a comma that's in the original MS that modern editors have taken out from Duke Senior's speech that makes all the world of difference as to whether Duke Senior goes with Jacques and his brother to live in peace and a sort of impromptu monastery or not. Modern editors change the comma so modern directors don't have that reconciliation - Duke Senior stays with Rosalind. The original folio does no such thing. Guess what we'll do?

        More later!

      • As You Like It
        Preliminary Thoughts: Performances

        It's that time of year again to look towards the Summer Shakespeare show...this year, As You Like It. In this post, I'm going to talk about a few performance thoughts, from seeing various versions of the show to being in it myself.

        A Disclaimer: All the recorded versions are really awful and I don't particularly recommend any of them. However....

      • Kenneth Branaugh's Version: Set bizarrely in China, this version does boast an interesting take on Jacques (Kevin Kline) as a sort of zen-priest. I do like that he seems to be played with a sad subtlety of a man attempting to right wrongs from his past, a wry observer of the world with a tender soul. The scene between he and Rosalind is perfectly staged where he comes upon her during her workday on the farm and they simply engage one another's wits.

        Celia is luminous (Romola Garai - always lovely), but I've really yet to see a bad Celia. They also take a bit of Touchstone's speech to Corin to intimate that Corin had been an imperial priest/businessman who for some dark reason gave it up. This seems mostly to be a ploy to have Corin play Martext later - but it's a strange turn that never quite goes anywhere, although it's interesting.

        Perhaps Branaugh's best contribution is that he began with a visual representation of the usurpation, rather than just telling it to us as Shakespeare does in the second scene. This is steal-worthy and WILL be stolen! Branaugh also dramatizes Orlando finding Oliver which I need to think more about how to alter/steal. Likewise, he shows Duke Ferdinand in the middle of some sort of conversion at the end; Branaugh's is inactive, mine will be active. It's a moment that resonates from Much Ado's final threat through to The Tempest's final reconciliation. I totally want to give the two dukes a moment of forgiveness.

      • Stratford Festival Version: This one is interesting insofar as it really makes the split between the courts evident. Duke Frederick and his regime are shown as being sort of Dickensian-wintery with a dash of Nazi SS-uniforms thrown in for good measure. However, the effect is that, as Mom cried out, "What the heck?!!? Isn't this supposed to be a comedy?!?!?!!?" Simply put, it's way too dark.

        However, Amiens is fabulous. He's appropriately piratical, the arrangements of the songs are lusty and good (although the deer-hunting one is still just freaking WEIRD), and he strides around the stage with the right sense of living life as he likes it. Along with him, Audrey and William/Phoebe and Silvius are given an earlier introduction, running across the stage calling out for each other just as our heroines and their fool enter the forest. It's a nice change from the winter-world prior to that scene, and makes one think of the various lovers in Midsummer's.

        Otherwise, the leads are awful, Orlando looks like he's being goosed by a cheeky fish (and then being slapped by another), and I spent most of my time rooting for this one pretty but silent guard in the usurper's court (he's VELLY pretty, with arian looks and slicked back hair and a black suit with silver buttons - fortunately, he follows the bad duke around and I've decided that I'm going to combine LeBeau and Anonymous Pretty SS man together in my version).

        Orlando's performance did help me in this: the fellow's diction was terrific, even if his acting was, asforementioned, plagued by pike. Hence, in listening to his constipated and uninspiring rhetoric, I was able to "read" the text again and realize a lot of things about Orlando - sort of Orlando point one and point two, etc. This is always a good sign. More about Orlando when I do my character post. Last, they took intermission after Orlando's sonnet, "Run, Orlando, and carve on every tree," which was sort of delightful (although it would have been more delightful were Orlando played by a fiber-eating YOUNG man). Anywho....

      • BBC Helen Mirren Version: I'm a huge Helen Mirren fan, but this production - while it has quite a few merits - still falls short. Orlando has a caterpillar growing on his upperlip and he was far behind on the day they were handing out chins. Helen Mirren, like almost every Rosalind, simply doesn't even bother doing a convincing pants role. And the COSTUMES....!?!?!?!? I'm sorry, but no one can carry off Malificent horns and an extreme empire waist and not look like a pregnant pineapple.

        However, despite the early BBC-ness of the production (weird costumes, over-enunciation at the expense of feeling, a definite difference between sound levels on outside vs. inside shoots, strange casting choices, by-the-book-or-they'll-throw-it-at-you-ness of dramatic choices), there are a few really terrific stealable things. Perhaps the one that struck me the most was the scene when Orlando goes in search of food for Adam. The energy of Orlando was just so swashbuckling over the top, when the attitude of Jacques, Duke Senior and all the other lords was so..."Quoi?" Silver foxes waiting with some surprised but languid interest at the violent fly in their midst. It's really quite endearing.

        I don't remember much else about it...but that part struck me. I don't know if it's on youtube...the other two had the full show, but this one just has Helen Mirren bits which, sorry, did NOT impress this viewer. (Oh, it had a fairly good fight between Orlando and Oliver...most of them do...but again Orlando's facial fungus detracted from the emotional impact.)

      • Lawrence Olivier's Version: I have to admit, I haven't seen past the first scene of this, even though I have it on DVD. According to my research, however, it was one of the first, if not THE first filmed Shakespeare. Certainly, Olivier's first filmed Shakespeare!

        According to my brother, Peter, who HAS suffered through it, Rosalind is so painful and speaks with a massive accent. I imagine Olivier as Orlando is a bit more tolerable. Pete says the movie also cuts out a TON of the show. This isn't surprising, since to see the early talky version of Shrew is maybe about a third of the dialogue, if that. The sets are incredible, the costumes still smack of the crazy hats those Medieval ladies loved, and at some point I should see it.

      • Longwood Players 2010: Pete and I went to Cambridge this past November to see a live version of As You Like It. I give the director props for coming up with many interesting solutions to some of the text's difficulties. Perhaps most ingenious was the way that she created one character of the "usher" who was dragged on to play ALL of the minor roles in the show to much amusement as he was dragged from part to part, thrown scripts, had his pants cut off, forced to sing, etc. It really was pretty durn clever.

        Also an interesting thought was the taking "All the world's a stage" and having the actors sit among the audience and then walk up to the stage to take their costumes and play the scenes. This was pretty cool...except that the director didn't seem to know how to get OUT of this conceit once she'd begun. The costumes were clever and gorgeous and indicative - e.g., wearing bustles over jeans rather than skirts. However, the director has the actors put on their clothes when they went on the stage (taking up about the first third of a scene just putting on their costumes - or more time as the play progressed and they had more clothes to put on!)...but then having them take OFF their costumes when they left (so the last third of the scene was them taking off their costumes and hanging them up and talking. Again, as the costumes grew more intricate in the woods and the scenes grew shorter, there was pretty much NO blocking whatsoever, much to the detriment of the plot and the pacing).

        Rosalind was useless, Celia was good, Oliver was not too shabby and should have played Orlando (as many of these productions feel), Jacques was terribly urbane which I liked although his scenes with Duke Senior were full of great bile which while justified in part by the text seemed too extreme for the moment. Touchstone was wonderful and really made his odd scene with William make sense (e.g., that he's fighting this poor hapless guy just to impress Audrey, and that in some ways it's his way of embracing the pastoral life by dirtying his hands - that, and the usher played William).

        But at the center of it all, once again, Rosalind wasn't mannish enough or conflicted enough or witty and magical and wry and everything enough...she was just there. And her chemistry with Orlando was non-existent, and Orlando was nearly non-existent. I feel like there was one bit of blocking in one of their wooing scenes that was cute...but I can't for the life of me remember what it was or whether I was just redirecting in my brain. Like I do.

        The best part was probably the color scheme, which was warm purple, orange and red in many different colorful patterns and a general late-Victorian feel. They also had a running gag of taking out ALL the songs (of which there are many) through various cute means, except for the last time when the poor battered usher suddenly broke into full voice. It's absolutely stealable...but not for this production.

        But what IS stealable is this moment at the beginning of the scene between Corin and Touchstone - the City Mouse/Country Mouse scene. It began in utter silence as Corin leaned on his staff and gazed happily, peacefully and contentedly out at his invisible sheep...while Touchstone held his shepherd's crook disdainfully, and gazed with horror at the abyss of eternity at the invisible sheep. Corin sighs deeply and Touchstone erupts in his diatribe against country living. Fabulous. I'm taking it.

        (Minorly, they also made a point of both times Atalanta's heels/better part are mentioned - the first to go "Quoi?" to it so the audience marks it, and the second time to go "Aaaah" at it to make the audience understand. I'll take that too! What I won't be taking is the dance at the end that featured each couple so we thought it was bows...and then they did bows. No matter who you are, you don't get double bows!)

      • Shakespeare on the Common Version: My fellow Emersonians tore this show a new one, and there were certain things to tear. Rosalind made a STAB at acting manly with her body but her voice and mannerisms were all girly. Orlando (guess what?) was there. Congrats to him. Celia (quelle surprise) was fun - a bit TOO girly for my tastes, but a delight to watch. Everyone else did the things they were supposed to. Tra la. And at the end, when the random Jacques de Bois shows up (as a handglider, obvs.), it's weird but by that time you're thinking, what the heck? Bring it on.

        What this production did get right, though, was Touchstone, who gave the only rendition of his Act V speech that made me laugh AND made sense that I've ever seen (I'm cutting it in ours and putting back in "All the world's a stage" - something has to go there b/c the leads are changing costume); Jacques squeezed out every dry laugh his lines allowed; but best of all were the singers. Whenever they came on, which is pretty much every other scene, making the play feel like Elizabethan Vaudeville, they brought the show to life. They were like a wandering gypsy band that were TOTALLY living as they liked it, with fabulous arrangements that made me want to dance (except I didn't. Silly Emily).

        I don't recall much more than that. Rosalind and Orlando made a go of it at falling in love with each other, and the director was at least cognizant of the fact that Orlando sees a boy when he's wooing Rosalind and is therefore somewhat weirded out by his own confusion to some comic effect, but Rosalind was so clearly feminine that Orlando (who was middling) had to work extra hard and the sparks just never really flew. It wasn't as bad as many Romeo and Juliet's I've seen, but the singers definitely won the show for me.

      • 2000 RSC Production: This is the one I saw in Stratford-upon-Avon aaaaaaaaaaaaaall those years ago with the infamous 1970's bathroom flowers scrim that descended upon the purposefully discordant ex-Rent refugee singers and a few actors that caused me to involuntarily throw up my hands in front of my face and cringe in my seat with one leg up like a shield and actually whisper, "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!" Rosalind had the world's raspiest voice, like she'd been chain-smoking since the womb; the director thought it would be fun to make Audrey a butter-churning whore, even while the text completely is against him; and they kept in the stag song which became some sort of red-washed ecstasy dreamchild from Hair. No wonder most of our party left before the second act.

        However, some really good things: Rosalind and Orlando were aware of their gender issues and there was much fun good blocking during their wooing scene. I don't remember most of it, but it was all very child-like and involved a lot of floorwork and lunging, like a kid's version of playing tag in the living room on Saturday morning. Celia was, as always, a magnificent joy to watch (in this case played by an actress who was also tearing it up on the next door stage as a teeny part in Henry IV - I was rooting for her in both plays).

        Another thing that I do want to steal was that they made the difference between the "man's world" of the Act I court and the "feminine world" of the rest of the play's forest very sharp. The color palate in the first was entirely black and white and the clothes were restricting. While when they went into the forest everything became more Hobbit-y and earthen-toned.

        But it is late and I must go to bed! Next one up, what old war horses say about the show! Direct from the mouths of English folk!

        Mood: Good. But I'm going to pay for this second wind in the morning....
        Music: Laura's "I'll Sink With You" on mental repeat
        Thought: AYLI will be fun, I think.