As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. Written around 1599, it may have been the first play performed at Shakespeare’s playhouse, The Globe. Jaques quotes the Globe’s motto, “totus mundus agit histrionem,” when he begins his famous “seven ages of man” monologue with “all the world’s a stage.” It’s easy to imagine him gesturing to the wooden building around him, and to the audience before him, when he first uttered those words in the newly built theater.
Jaques and his speech are only part of this play’s appeal. Rosalind, played in our production by noted Bay Area actor Melissa Claire, is one of his most revered characters. Her eloquent wit, her courage, and her agile humor make her a remarkable creation. In Shakespeare’s original staging she would have been played by a boy. That this boy plays a woman, Rosalind, was a convention of the stage in Shakespeare’s time and in itself would have been unremarkable. But Shakespeare’s restless intelligence led him to probe the nature of gender and affection, as the boy playing Rosalind then embodied Rosalind dressing up like a boy, Ganymede, who then “pretends” to be Rosalind for Orlando to woo. If mathematical terms might help us understand this equation, it goes something like boy=girl=boy=girl.
It’s confusing, but delightful, to watch the permutations of behavior and romance that ensue from Rosalind’s hijinks. In this production we loosely set her and her fellows in late 19th century California, on and around a ranchero that has been usurped from his older brother by Duke Frederick. Property rights, brothers and their rivalries, and the fracturing and restoring of community are themes we explore in the play, along with the dizzying spectacle of love-at-first-sight.
July 22, 23, 29, 30
Oakmont Golf Club, Santa Rosa
August 8, 9
Dance Palace, Point Reyes Station