CT Free Shakespeare Presents AS YOU LIKE IT, Now thru 8/3
1969. Protests. Love-ins. Woodstock. The height of a counter-culture movement-and the perfect time in which to set a 400 year old play according to Ellen Lieberman, Artistic Director of CT Free Shakespeare. For its 15th season, the company will present As You Like It, one of William Shakespeare's greatest comedies--and some say his silliest. It is also Shakespeare's most musical play, and this adaptation features soul-stirring songs from the 60's.
As You Like It will play from today, July 30 through August 3 on the grounds of The American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford and from August 6 through 10 on historic McLevy Green (a short walk from the train station)in Downtown Bridgeport. The August 7 show is a DOWNTOWN Thursdays event. Performances begin at 8 pm, but attendees are encouraged to arrive early to get the most advantageous viewing spots. Last year, attendance topped 1800. Those attending should bring blankets or chairs for seating. Picnicking is traditional. Actors are courtesy of Actors' Equity Association. Free.
Setting the play in 1969 is a no-brainer according to Ms. Lieberman. "Shakespeare's independent, free spirited and nature loving characters fit right in to the decade known for women's lib, the anti-war movement, and getting back to nature. The audience will see a cross-section of humanity from that time period that are perfectly at home in the Forest of Arden. Everyone is there--political exiles, activists, meditators, followers of Kirpal Singh, hippies, Hare Krishnas, old bohemians, and beatniks...The actors have great freedom in this setting."
The play, very true to Shakespeare and his language, follows two separate but interlocking stories of family treachery: a duke, Senior, has been usurped by a younger brother, Frederick; and a younger brother, Orlando has been cheated and mistreated by his older brother, Oliver. Most of the play takes place in the Forest of Arden where the banished, rightful duke and his faithful supporters live merrily "like Robin Hood of old England." Theirs is a peaceful enclave that draws all sorts of followers. The forest is also where the wronged younger brother, Orlando, flees to save his life, and where the old duke's daughter, Rosalind, goes when she, too, is banished. Before heading out to the forest, Rosalind disguises herself as a man for safety, and is accompanied by her beloved cousin, Celia (also in disguise) who is Duke Frederick's daughter. For added security, they bring along the clever court jester, Touchstone. Rosalind and Orlando have met in town, and meet again in the forest. Love is in the air, but the path of true love does not run smoothly since Rosalind continues in the guise of a young man. As Ganymede, she attracts the attention of a shepherdess named Phebe who is being pursued by a languishing shepherd named Silvius. Ultimately all is resolved. The cruel brother, Oliver, learns to love Orlando who saves him from a lion, then falls in love at first sight with Celia. Rosalind, convinced of his love, reveals herself to Orlando. Phebe accepts the love of Silvius, and Touchstone, the philosophical jester, finds love with a simple minded country bumpkin named Audrey. At the wedding of the four couples, it's announced that Duke Frederick has met an old religious man, repented, and is returning the kingdom to Duke Senior. Almost everyone lives happily ever after: Jaques is just not a happy guy.
The stage set for As You Like It was designed by Emmy Award winning scenic designer, Liz Popiel, who is also a tenured professor at Western Connecticut State College in the Theater Arts Department. Working with Lighting Designer, Sebastian Paczynski, Popiel even manages to produce a realistic waterfall. Her set transition from city to forest is reminiscent of the move from Kansas to Oz.
For more information, call 203-232-8805 or 203- 916-8066 or visit www.ctfreeshakespeare.org or www.facebook.com/ctfreeshakespeare
CT Free Shakespeare is sponsored by The City of Bridgeport, The Bridgeport Mayor's Neighborhood Arts & Heritage Grant, Festival! Stratford, CT Department of Economic and Community Development-Connecticut Office of the Arts, Fairfield County Community Foundation, The WorkPlace, Norma Terris - Albert Firestone Foundation, DOWNTOWN Thursdays, Aquarion Water Company, Bridgeport Arts + Cultural Council, Bridgeport Innovation Center, Merit Insurance and Avram and Rhoda Freedberg Foundation. Special thanks to the First Congregational Church of Stratford for providing rehearsal space.
Connecticut Free Shakespeare (CFS) was founded in 2000 as an offshoot of Dandelion Productions. It is a non-profit theater company whose mission is to produce free-to-the-public professional works of classical theater in an accessible, skillful, imaginative American style that honors the playwright's language and intentions and that crafts these plays with a 21st century sensibility. CFS is committed to mounting productions that make Shakespeare accessible to a broad range of audience members, including those not familiar with Shakespeare's work, without jeopardizing artistic integrity.