Shakespeare comes to Villanova

Nina Pellegrini

By Nina PellegriniStaff Reporter

“All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players…” (“As You Like It,” II.vii.).The characters of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” play a lot in this fall’s second Vasey performance – from cross-dressing to holding grudges – while still finding love in absurd places.Heroine Rosalind (Jessica Bedford) is banished from her uncle’s court and flees to the bare, silver Forest of Arden with her cousin and best friend, Celia, to search for her two loves – estranged father Duke Senior and dreamboat Orlando. Disguised as her male alter ego, Ganymede, she finds her lover, teaching him how to properly woo a woman along the way.”Rosalind has a lot of freedom,” says Bedford, second-year theater M.A. and acting scholar. “There is that whole move where she decides to put on a pair of pants.”Compared with the characters she’s played in the past, like Lady Macduff in “Hamlet” and Lady Percy in “Henry IV Part 1,” Bedford finds that unlike in most of Shakespeare’s theater, men’s choices don’t dominate Rosalind’s life.But life hasn’t always been easy for Rosalind. “Rosalind has a nasty set of circumstances at the set of the play,” Bedford says.Trapped in a court dressed in clerical black, where stiff, starched collars reign, Rosalind isn’t sure she’ll ever experience true love. Then she meets Orlando [which is when she gets it].”I realize how big that must be for her,” says Bedford. “Love continues to be the most powerful experience humans are faced with,” Director and theater professor Harriet Power says. “The scenes between the lovers are delicious because Rosalind is teaching her lover about women.”While bright-eyed Bedford’s blonde curls may not make for a convincing man, she says she does the best she can, given her circumstances.”You can only ask the audience to suspend their disbelief for so long,” she says, laughing. “For me, it’s the boots – it’s just the way they changed how I walked.” Bedford has studied Orlando’s movements and practices in her heavy workman’s boots, but Power isn’t concerned about hiding the obvious from the audience. That just turns up the heat.”It’s fun that she gets to be the aggressor in their relationship,” Bedford says. Is there any better way to tell a guy what women want?Powers has set the play in late fall, unique because the play usually takes place in late spring to early summer. She aims to make the cycle of time and death more relevant for the audience. Bare metallic poles and neutral, ragged “erosion cloth” create a frigid minimal set that can quickly transform from a court to a forest, as the 20-member cast keeps the play flowing at a steady pace.In Shakespeare’s time, a bare stage was the norm. “The richness in language allowed people to imagine it as a castle wall at night, a forest, or a bedroom,” Power says.The cast and crew of “As You Like It” will be sure to fill the space, and more. Bedford’s gorgeous silver and gold wedding dress and Orlando’s leather doublet are just a few pieces that bring light and energy to the stage.Throughout the play, the characters struggle with learning about themselves, asking the timeless question, what gives meaning to our lives?”The play invites us to consider how easy it is to accurately observe other people and how hard it is to accurately observe ourselves,” Power says. This theme is obvious in the relationships between the two sets of brothers, Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, of the court, and Orlando and Oliver, banished to the forest. The lessons they learn about themselves, forgiveness and brotherly love is something that only Shakespeare can articulate so well.”Shakespeare is able to capture, theatrically, what makes us tick, what fuels our motivation,” Power says.The cast tackles Shakespearean language with the professional help of voice, text, and speech expert Lynn Innerst, professor at Temple University, and Nancy Boykin, adjunct professor at Villanova University. The show is committed to excellent execution of the language.Vasey’s cast will bring Shakespeare to life for a hilarious and clearly-articulated performance that will entertain doctorates of Shakespeare and freshmen attending with their ACS classes alike.