About the Play
As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Edward Morgan
Photos by Joy Strotz
Duke Senior has been forced into exile from the court by his brother, the usurping Duke Frederick. He takes refuge in the Forest of Arden with a band of faithful lords. Rosalind, his daughter, is kept uneasily at court as a companion to her cousin Celia, Frederick's daughter. Meanwhile, Orlando, the youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, has been kept in poverty by his brother Oliver since their father's death. Orlando decides to wrestle for his fortune at Frederick's court, where he meets Rosalind and they fall in love.
The Duke banishes Rosalind, fearing that she is a threat to his rule. Celia, refusing to be parted from her cousin, goes with Rosalind to seek Duke Senior in the Forest. For safety, they disguise themselves - Rosalind as a boy named Ganymede and Celia as his sister Aliena - and they persuade the fool Touchstone to accompany them.
Orlando returns from the court and learns of a plot by his brother to kill him. He flees with a loyal servant to the Forest and takes refuge with the exiled Duke. Still thinking on Rosalind, he begins posting love lyrics through the forest. Before long, he encounters her, but she is disguised as Ganymede. She proceeds to coach Orlando on how to woo his Rosalind, often playing the part of Rosalind herself.
Elsewhere in the Forest, Touchstone pursues Audrey, a goat-herd, and the shepherd Silvius dotes on his neighbor Phoebe, who has fallen for Ganymede (Rosalind in disguise). Meanwhile, Oliver has been sent to hunt down his brother and arrives in the Forest, where Orlando saves his life from a lion. Oliver repents his past abuse of Orlando and promptly falls in love with Aliena (Celia in disguise).
As Ganymede, Rosalind promises to satisfy Orlando's longing and to resolve all of the love plots in one flourish. She does so, forsaking her disguise, reuniting with her father and joining at last with young Orlando. Then news arrives that Duke Frederick has had a conversion and renounced the Dukedom, so the exiles can return to civilization and their former lives. Only the melancholy Jaques will stay behind in the Forest.
(edited/updated by Edward Morgan)
On the surface, this is a tale of exile and romance. The plot is simple: a young gentleman and two young noblewomen are driven from their homes. They flee into the forest where the rightful Duke has been exiled. But instead of an empty wilderness, they encounter shepherds, wandering nobles, philosophers, hermits, deer and lions - a population Shakespeare borrows from the tales of Robin Hood, English pastorals and classical poetry. This is the fabled Forest of Arden.
Orlando, Rosalind and Celia arrive in Arden and their dangers dissipate. The wood becomes a haven wherein they take on new identities in life and love. Meanwhile, the city-folk mingle with country-folk and the exiled Duke and his followers contemplate the natural state of man, All of these threads are interwoven through language as elegant as any Shakespeare wrote, flowing scene to scene like a brook through dappled glades.
Yet beneath its sparkling surface, As You Like It is not froth. It juxtaposes civilized corruption with the natural world, and mocks how urban and rural people view each other. It plays with gender roles and sexual ambivalence. It gazes on mortality and redemption, and celebrates the threshold of a new era of individuality and liberation. With themes so modern, it's astonishing to remember that this play premiered 415 years ago.
So what have we done with our production?
We've set it in New England during the second Industrial Revolution, not long after the start of the 20th century. We've placed Arden in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. The villains are greedy Industrialists. The exiled Duke is a follower of Emerson, a would-be Thoreau. Rosalind and Orlando are the new Americans. Fiercely democratic, they succeed by merit - not privilege - as they forge a new worldview and sense of equality. Indeed, in this context, the delightful, ever-resourceful Rosalind becomes a kind of metaphor for American womanhood, advancing from 19th century servitude through Gibson Girl glamor to the courage of the Suffragette, and beyond. And finally, since the true pulse of an era resounds in its music, we've replaced Shakespeare's songs with tunes that echo these themes through Yankee syncopation.
It's been fun transplanting this brilliant play to American soil. It's given the text new resonance for us. We hope it does the same for you, and that our version is as you like it.
Edward Morgan, Director