Valdosta Daily Times

Features

November 7, 2013

As You Like It

VALDOSTA — Even a person who has seen little or no Shakespeare is likely familiar with the names of Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Romeo, Juliet. Those with even a passing Shakespearean knowledge will recognize all of those Henrys and Falstaff, Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.

Yet, there is the masterpiece of Rosalind. Had Shakespeare given his comedy the title of “Rosalind,” her name may possibly be as familiar as any of his better-known creations. Instead of naming the play for the young woman who ranks among his most sublime creations, William Shakespeare named his masterpiece comedy, “As You Like It.”

But it is Rosalind who dominates nonetheless, and that is how many audiences have liked it for centuries, and will hopefully like it again this week as Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance presents “As You Like it.”

In his bestselling “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,” Harold Bloom writes, “If Rosalind cannot please us, then no one in Shakespeare or elsewhere in literature ever will. I love Falstaff and Hamlet and Cleopatra as dramatic and literary characters, but would not want suddenly to encounter them in actuality, yet falling in love with Rosalind always makes me wish that she existed in our subliterary realm.”

In the realm of Sawyer Theatre, it is Rebecca Morris who plays Rosalind. Morris has played numerous roles in VSU Theatre and Peach State Summer Theatre productions, such as “A Little Night Music,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Skin of Our Teeth,” “Love, Loss & What I Wore,” etc.

Yet, it is also a play with many great roles, filled with the comic Shakespearean twists of assumed and mistaken identities, as well as misunderstood and missed opportunities.

There is a subtext of the eternal qualities of what it means to be human whether now or hundreds of years ago contrasted against the everchanging technological frameworks of how we present ourselves and communicate with one another. Yet, sometimes, even as our modes of available communication multiply, we lose something in the translation.

“The exploration of Shakespeare’s fertile language provides ample opportunity for our actors and audience to discover how other cultures have communicated,” Jacque Wheeler, the VSU show’s director, writes in her director’s notes. “Before television, media and Netflix, there was significant value placed on conversation, argument and wit. It is a pleasure to lead our students as they experience the fun to be had in this Shakespearean frolic, learning that people have the same emotions no matter what words they choose and how they choose to put those words together. All the world has the same stage.”

For this production, Wheeler moves the story from the more formal age of its composition to the looser costumes and atmosphere of late 18th century France, with a bit of revolution in the air but none of the blood to come. Throughout, love is also in the air. Shakespeare brings together four couples in “As You Like It.”

But it is ultimately Rosalind who brings everything together to a point that Bloom suggests the play could have been titled “As Rosalind Likes it.”

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