Thursday, June 21, 2012

As You Like It: Opening Weekend


Friday night, opening night of Henry VIII, marked the first moment since the beginning of 2012 that I have been without a production. From Styles to Autumn to Henry VIII I have been in-process; revising, acting, memorizing, editing, directing, always thinking, obsessing. Fortunately, absolutely none of it was onerous. Three just fabulous productions for me, each in their own way. I could not have known this at New Year's, but I did hope, and I am satisfied.

Having nights free doesn't mean actually having them free, it means working with the wife in negotiating everything she has been doing almost entirely on her own. Right now that means swimming lessons, music lessons, baseball and whatever else populates the world of our children.

During baseball practice last night I abandoned my charge and headed over to Notre Dame College to see how tech week for As You Like It is proceeding. It was like the bizarro world, most (all but two) of my cast is in AYLI. The costumes are as good as those for Henry -- we have the same designer -- but a very different setting. The show opens tomorrow at 7 PM, and I am really looking forward to seeing it. Word is it clocks in at around an hour forty, which is amazing, I've never seen As You Like It performed with such speed.

Next to Hamlet, I believe I have seen As You Like It more than any other Shakespeare play. That is not because of any affection for the play on my part, just because it is performed so damn often. At Central Park with Elizabeth McGovern (1992), Stan Hywet (1993), Great Lakes Theater (1996), Cleveland Public Theatre (1998), Great Lakes Theater (2005) and also the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival ten years ago in 2002.

At that time, I was emerging from a year of mourning, and looking forward to "coming out" as an actor again. I hadn't performed in a play since Bad Epitaph's Cloud 9, two years earlier. I thought I would make an excellent Jacques. However, the guest director packed his cast with his students from the CWRU grad program. The role I wanted went to Rich Sommer.

Harry Crane:
Full of wise saws and modern instances,
And so he plays his part.

Ah well. Sorry you missed that. One thing that last CSF production has in common with this year's is Bobby Williams, reprising the role of Amiens, the balladeer, and you do not want to miss that. Director Dana Hart calls AYLI "Shakespeare's Musical" and it does have a great deal of songs, and there will also be dancing! I love good dancing in shows, non-dance shows, it just makes me smile.

I noted in an earlier post how Sarah was choreographing happy, festive dances for this show on the same evenings she was creating Katherine's vision for Henry. However, I did want to state for the record that I was careless and unintentionally allowed audiences -- and critics -- to think she also put together the breakdancing. Sarah did not choreograph the breakdancing. Bill, Steven and Brian made that shit up.

Earlier I mentioned Hamlet, and in discussions with others this week I was not the only one to compare the role of Rosalind to that of Hamlet. They each carry the show on their backs. They also must successfully traverse a wide range of emotions, and deliver pithy, witty, heartfelt monologues and soliloquys. They both lecture others. A lot. Rosalind and Hamlet are know-it-alls. Shakespeare makes us care about their fates, but it takes a rock star performer to carry that performance, and the entire show depends upon them.

"How tastes it? Is it bitter?"
Old Young Lady in "Henry VIII"

Fortunately, Dana has Valerie C. Kilmer, an outstanding young actress in that pivotal role. One of the things I have really enjoyed about this repertory process was how Dana and I negotiated and shared our casts, and as a result were able to offer actors who may not have been interested in schlepping scenery and putting up tents all summer in exchange for a lead role, a sizeable role in one show, and a supporting role in the other. Lucky me, I had the opportunity to offer the part of "Old Lady" to Valerie on the same day she was offered the part of Rosalind.

Now, get me drunk and ask me what I think of the character Touchstone.


  1. You're too difficult to get drunk; I'll just stay nearby as someone else plies you with potent potables and eavesdrop on the subject of Touchstone.