Cajun fiddle music performed from an on-stage golf cart, and a closing music and dance number in a Lady Gaga format, are just two ways Shakespeare is going modern in the Grand Valley State University Shakespeare Festival production of As You Like It. Grand Valley's festival is the oldest and largest Shakespeare Festival in Michigan.
Performances are October 1, 2, and 7, 8, 9 at 7:30 p.m. as well as October 4, 10 and 11 at 2 p.m. at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center, on the Allendale Campus. The performance Thursday, October 7, will feature sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired.
Escape from the serious with this crowd-pleasing romance that offers fun for the whole family. The assortment of characters includes a fool, two dukes, a lovelorn shepherd, a band of courtiers, Orlando and Rosalind. Orlando met Rosalind, who was then banished, whom he meets again, though she is disguised as a boy and gives him wooing lessons.
“The modern-day setting takes characters, including Rosalind, on an escape from Manhattan to seek refuge in the quiet groves of Appalachia,” said School of Communications professor Roger Ellis, who is directing the show. “We've put a modern spin on Shakespeare's most delightful romance, which is filled with wonderful poetry, four marriages, unbelievable clownery and magical enchantment, with down-home songs.”
Ellis has directed more than 100 productions for educational, community and professional theatres overseas and in the U.S, including six seasons at the California Shakespeare Festival, and in Michigan for Opera Grand Rapids and the Community Circle Theatre among others at Grand Valley.
Though the cast is primarily Grand Valley students, as part of the university's annual Shakespeare Festival, visiting professional guest artists also participate. Guest Equity Actor Paul Riopelle, who appeared in the festival's 2006 production of Hamlet and in 2005's Measure for Measure, returns as Jaques. Additionally, Grand Valley and Shakespeare Festival alumnus Scott Lange joins the cast in dual roles as Duke Frederick and his older brother. Local actor Scott Wright, who starred in Grand Valley's Summer Film Project, The Darkroom, appears as the singing Lord Amiens.
Other guest artists include local composer/musician Michael Sanchez, as musical director and a performer; Claire Diedrich from the Illinois Shakespeare Festival as stage manager; and choreographer Christian Vigrass, a Grand Valley alumnus.
Preshow activities on opening night, October 1, include a musical performance and discussion. As You Like It performances are part of the annual Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival. Shakespeare and his culture are explored and celebrated through performances and activities that enrich Grand Valley audiences and the community. For a complete schedule of festival events, visit www.gvsu.edu/shakes.
As You Like It tickets, $6-14, are available at the GVSU Box Office, (616) 331-2300 or (616) 331-2960, in person from noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and one hour prior to all performances. Recommended for ages 8 and up. No children under school age admitted. Tickets for three midweek matinees, at a reduced group rate, are available for regional schools as part of the festival's educational outreach program. Please contact Jo Miller, at (616) 331-3552, or firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.