BWW Interviews: Breathing Life into Shakespeare: Megan Bartle Speaks on The Acting Company's AS YOU LIKE IT

BWW Interviews: Breathing Life into Shakespeare: Megan Bartle Speaks on The Acting Company's AS YOU LIKE IT
"All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players," professes Jaques in Act II Scene VII of Shakespeare's pastoral comedy As You Like It. The play depicts a series of mistaken identity mishaps and love triangles fueled by feuding families. Rosalind (Elizabeth Stahlmann) and her best friend, Celia (Megan Bartle), struggle to maintain their friendship while seeking love and dodging the foibles that unfurl in the Forest of Arden.

Megan Bartle is a Minnesota native who attended the Guthrie Actor Training Program. She says it was a great experience and cites the Guthrie as one of her inspirations for performing, "I grew up in Apple Valley on a street called Guthrie Way. It was my destiny to perform at the Guthrie! From the moment I came to the Guthrie I always knew I wanted to be there." Bartle studied at the old St. Paul building but she says that there was something magical about being involved in the transition to the new Minneapolis site, "With the new building you walk through the door and feel the molecules change. It was just at the beginning and they were still figuring things out. it's always fun to be a guinea pig in that scenario. You develop a close relationship with the theater--that's sort of your second home."

Cast-mate Elizabeth Stahlmann is a fellow Guthrie Actor Training Program alum. Says Bartle, "Elizabeth and I both grew up in Minnesota and went to the Guthrie Program. We already knew and cared for each other, which is important because that relationship between Rosalind and Celia is about deep, loyal friendship."

But the show is far from solemn. One of Shakespeare's madcap comedies, Bartle says that the cast is given free range to explore and alter their performance. "[As You Like It has been] unlike any process I've ever been a part of. [Director Dan Rothenberg] comes from Pig Iron Theater Company in Philadelphia. Part of their mission is that they're dedicated to performing works that defy easy characterization. That's really a spirit that Dan has carried with him in this process. I kind of feel like I've learned a new language in the last few weeks. Dan has his own vibe and he demands creativity."

Bartle speaks of the process of creating and rehearsing the show, saying that Rothenberg is very much interested in fostering the spirit of the play. He asks that the actors experiment with space and imagery, sometimes making big changes even the night before a performance. "Because Dan has put us in a place of play even yesterday we were changing big things. None of us are married to anything."

Aside from the vibrant collaborative effort that the actors put into the play, Bartle also credits set and sound design for the spirit of the show. While "all the world's a stage," As You Like It will appear in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio Space, a more open area that allows room for exploration. The show includes six 16-foot trees, animal masks and enchanting music to set the mood.

So it seems that Dan Rothenberg and Shakespeare are in agreement: in the Forest of Arden almost anything can happen. Though Bartle assures us that the magic doesn't stop there, "the audience really does change everything."

As You Like It is currently in previews at The Guthrie. Opening night is Wednesday, January 16th at 7:30 p.m. The play will be showing at The Guthrie Tuesday through Sunday for all of January. Closing night is Sunday, February 3rd. For tickets, please visit the Guthrie's website.

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