Shakespeare comes to UI

By Megan McNamara

The University Department of Theatre’s production of the comedy “As You Like It” opened Wednesday and will run through Feb. 19, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Studio Theatre.

Director Robert Anderson is well versed in Shakespeare, and has been involved in 60 different productions of Shakespearean plays. One of his goals for “As You Like It” was to make Shakespeare “more modern, relative and expressive, especially because most of the audience is young,” Anderson said.

“When people come to see the show, it’ll feel very new and fresh, very alive,” he said. “The student-actors bring a lot of themselves to their roles to personalize the play,” Anderson said.

Anderson, frustrated by the fact that “many portrayals of Shakespeare’s works are museum-like” and unapproachable to a young audience, said he is looking for new ways to introduce students to the power of Shakespeare’s works.

“There is a lot of physical improvisation, as well as singing and dance improvisation,” Anderson said.

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These unique touches create an exciting atmosphere for the audience, he added.

Additionally, “As You Like It” did not undergo a typical sound production; it features contemporary music produced by DJ Chris Ericson, graduate student. The sound crew worked with 2 turntables, CD players and a computer board to produce music and sound effects. Ericson described the music as “not hip-hop, not house, but electronica.”

The cast, consisting of 18-22 students, is larger than average for a production of this nature, and the ensemble is onstage almost the entire play. This decision means that all cast members, not just the main characters, are invested in the play, Anderson said.

“It’s not your normal show,” he said.

Micah Maatman, graduate student and the scene designer for “As You Like It,” said the scenery is simple and modern.

“It focuses on the love and lofty feelings of the characters in the show,” he said. “We wanted to portray the more guttural and abstract feelings of love, how characters interact within the formality of a court. We lent a more primal, animalistic feeling to the forest scenes. We want to leave it open to interpretation, and not dictate to the audience what they should interpret.”

The student-actors put an extensive amount of work into the play, Anderson said.

“They really push themselves,” he said. “They have been rehearsing 6 nights a week since returning from Thanksgiving Break.”

Anderson said he hopes audiences will respond to the play on their own terms.

“I hope that you’ll find yourself in the play somewhere,” he said. “The play is all about love, whether it be the love of a best friend, a romantic relationship, love of a group, a crush – all sorts of love are explored in deeply poetic yet humorous ways.”