A wrestling match, amusing disguises and topsy-turvy love triangles: This is the comical setup for William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It. Last Saturday and Sunday, the rollicking series of laughs and deceptions roared over Kenyon’s campus. For a brief two hours, the Harcourt Parish Lawn was transformed into the green forests of Arden.
The Crow’s Nest — one of Kenyon’s two Shakespeare troupes — put on two fantastic performances last weekend, one on the lawn in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit on Saturday and one in the Harlene Marley Theater on Sunday (due to rain). The production marked the debut of the new student-led Shakespearean production company. In the sunny and breezy weather, the pastoral elements of Shakespeare’s play shone through. The Crow’s Nest made good use of the Harcourt Parish Lawn on Saturday by setting the lush outdoor setting as their proscenium stage. A tree, for example, was employed as any other prop: characters hid behind it, leaned on it for support and posted love notes on branches. Actors changed costumes in a tent behind the audience, hidden by yet another tree. Audience members sat on the grass or on picnic blankets, enveloped by the green world.
As You Like It centers around the romance between Rosalind, played by Skyler Lesser-Roy ’22, and Orlando, played by an energetic Gabe Buyske-Friedburg ’20. Both exiled from the miserable court of France, they retreat to the lush and romantic forests of Arden to find love. However, as in any of Shakespeare’s comedies, love gets twisted and tied between a wide cast of characters. At the heart of the play’s plot is a dizzying tangle of capers and courtship.
Abby Kastenberg ’19, the stage manager of the production, described how it was an unusual experience to put on the play outside. Because they were so dependent on weather, rehearsals were rarely in the same location. “It was a little bit different than normal,” she said. “For a long time we were not rehearsing in a consistent space, and even when we did have that consistent space, it was typically not the space that we would use for the final performances.”
Buyske-Friedburg, who had never acted in a Shakespeare play before, thought the experience of performing outside was magical. “I really loved being outside,” he said. “It just made me feel like I was in that forest in Arden.”
Likewise, Lesser-Roy also thought the experience of performing outside was special — but it did present some obstacles. Because of rain on Sunday, the production team had to move their whole cast and crew to the Black Box Theater (the Horn Gallery, the rain location, was unexpectedly being used) — and the team had never rehearsed in there before. Within a matter of hours, the directors and cast had to figure out new blocking, props and transitions.
“We had to spontaneously adapt to the new setting,” said Lesser-Roy. “It was a sort of improvisation [in the Black Box], and that was a big hurdle that we all had to jump through.”
Ultimately, however, the first production from the Crow’s Nest was a triumphant success. One hundred and thirty people came to the first show—nearly double the amount that had RSVP’d, according to Kastenberg. Clearly, it won’t be long until we escape again to the lush greenery of Arden.