William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”  

Last weekend, the Lawrence University Department of Theatre Arts presented “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare. The play was the Senior Experience in Theatre Arts for Madeline Guest, Elie Bufford and Janine Casey, and it was a stunning success. The cast gave a total of four performances, of which I was able to attend the opening night on Feb. 15. Despite being a Thursday night, the audience was packed in warmly to watch the production. 

The costuming was vibrant and exciting, and every actor was engaging and fun. Perhaps one of the best combinations of these two factors was found in junior Ella Rose Shaefer’s portrayal of Charles (a famous wrestler). Complete with a luchador mask and silicone muscle suit, Ella’s brief but hysterical character in the envious court had the entire audience bursting with tears. Sadly, Charles’s beautiful plastic abs were  dragged off stage shortly after his defeat.  

Photo from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” presented by Lawrence University’s Department of Theatre Arts. Photo by Micah Greenberg.

All of the cast was phenomenal, with leads such as fifth-year Madeline Guest and senior Janine Casey, who played Rosalind and Celia respectively, giving a convincing and heartfelt portrayal of the bond of love between the two cousins who chose exile together, rather than to be separated. Another standout performance was first-year Ashlyn Garrity as Touchstone (a clown). With Touchstone’s colorful outfit and silly lines, I found myself looking forward to every time Ashlyn walked out on stage. Her character was truly a highlight of the play.  

The set design was also incredibly well done. The set pieces primarily included two-dimensional trees that characters could walk around or even climb behind and grassy platforms that allowed the characters to sit and stand at different levels. Despite the fact that it was a single set, the frequent changes in lighting between scenes and the dynamic use of space at the front and back of the stage made it easy to believe that scenes were taking place in different locations, even with the same backdrop.  

Outside of the theater was a large board, featuring each of the seniors involved in the Senior Experience. What was interesting to me was reading about what each of these seniors saw as important about Shakespeare.  

For Janine Casey, the joy of Shakespeare lies in the wide world of possibilities when it comes to line delivery while performing Shakespeare aloud. “I learned never to take any words for granted!” 

Photo from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” presented by Lawrence University’s Department of Theatre Arts. Photo by Micah Greenberg.

For Elie Bufford, the appeal is both the freedom Shakespeare provides and the creativity it requires. Shakespeare’s work has been around for a long time and has been popular for almost as long. When it comes to his plays, especially his more popular ones, they’ve been done countless times and countless ways. “The benefit of that is that it forces you to find new ways to make it new and interesting,” Bufford said. “There is no one right way to do it, and that’s what makes it fun.” 

For Madeline Guest, the love for Shakespeare lies in the words themselves. “Working to understand and memorize a text is a completely different experience than working with a contemporary text and makes me think about what I’m doing or saying in an entirely new light,” she said. 

This play was the first that I’ve actually been able to attend during my time at Lawrence, and it made me wish that I had been to see more. Despite the rising temperatures in the small room with its hot lights, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and found myself laughing and desperately waiting to find out what happens next. (Bad English major confession: I had not read “As You Like It” prior to watching this performance.) Thanks to everyone involved in the play, from the actors to those working behind the scenes, the performance was a huge success, and I look forward to seeing more from the Department of Theater Arts.