NSU Theatre and Dance preparing outdoor version of “As You Like It”

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University Theatre and Dance will perform Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Nov. 5 – 7 and 12 – 14 at 6 p.m. on Normal Hill near Russell Hall. Admission is free to the outdoor performance. Those attending should bring their own seating if needed. In case of bad weather, performances will be in the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium.

Director Scott Burrell has set the play in the late 1960s with costumes and music evoking Woodstock.

“This is the first time in anyone’s memory that we have done an outdoor show and incorporated the historic columns into the show,” said director Burrell. “The play has a lot of humor with a Shakespearean plot twist, mean villains and clowns.

Burrell said the columns were the perfect setting for the play because they can symbolize the city and later can serve as trunks for the trees in the forest.

In “As You Like It,” Duchess Frederica has usurped the title and throne of her elder brother, Duke Senior. Duke Senior has taken up residence in the Forest of Arden with his band of loyal followers, leaving his daughter, Rosalind, behind at the court. Into this situation, enter Orlando and Oliver de Boys, two brothers divided by enmity. Orlando has long been mistreated by his brother and when Orlando enters a wrestling match sponsored by the Duchess, Oliver tells his opponent, Charles, a champion wrestler, that he wouldn’t care if Charles were to break Orlando’s neck.

To the surprise of all, Orlando wins the match. In doing so, he attracts the romantic attention of Rosalind and the ire of Oliver. Orlando and his servant, Adam, flee Oliver’s wrath into Arden. Duchess Frederica decides to banish Rosalind to Arden as she did with her father. Celia, Frederica’s daughter and Rosalind’s best friend, declares that she will accompany her in exile. Rosalind disguises herself as a boy named Ganymede, while Celia assumes the part of “his” sister, Aliena. They are accompanied by the clown Touchstone.

Orlando eventually finds himself in the company of Duke Senior’s men, pining for his lost Rosalind. Rosalind, meanwhile, purchases a flock of sheep and a pasture, and sets out to lead a pastoral life. Before long, however, Orlando’s habit of carving Rosalind’s name in the trees and leaving love poems scattered about the forest tip her off to his presence. Still disguised as Ganymede, Rosalind seeks out Orlando to get a better sense of his feelings for her. She promises to cure Orlando’s heartache by letting him pour his feelings out to Ganymede as if “he” were Rosalind. Rosalind also attempts a match between Silvius and Phebe that goes awry when Phebe falls instead for Rosalind’s Ganymede. Meanwhile, Touchstone courts a country girl named Audrey, adding to the multiple romance plots.

The resolution begins when Oliver enters the camp. Orlando has saved him from an attack by a lion, and the two brothers have reconciled. Upon meeting Celia, now Oliver falls in love; Duke Senior promises to join them in wedlock the next day. Rosalind makes Phebe promise to marry Silvius if she can’t have Ganymede, then tells Orlando that Rosalind will marry him that day as well. When all have gathered for the wedding, Rosalind reveals herself as the erstwhile Ganymede. She and Orlando are happily reunited, and Phebe agrees to marry Silvius. Touchstone will also marry Audrey. As the pledges of love are exchanged, Orlando and Oliver’s brother enters the scene. Jaques brings news that Duchess Frederica, upon meeting a holy man, has repented her ways and opted for a religious life. Duke Senior is restored to his rightful position, and all live happily ever after.

The cast is Austin Aschbrenner of Beebe, Arkansas as Orlando, Jay Canova of Marrero as Oliver, Ne’Ambri Owens of Mansfield as Duchess Frederick, Chelsey Goldsmith of Edmond, Oklahoma, as Phebe, Shannon Harger of Baton Rouge as Rosalind, Hally Lambert of St. Amant as Celia, Sean Grady of Leesville as Touchstone, Hector Pena of Gretna as Duke Senior, Nic Ferguson of Shreveport as Adam/Hymen, Connor Loar of Mandeville as Dennis/Corn, L.G. Williams of New Orleans as Charles/William, Braxton Hogan of Natchitoches as Silvius, Kelsi Dixon of Chalmette as Audrey and Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts faculty member Jeff Thomakos as Jaques/LeBeau.