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National Players bringing Shakespearean comedy ‘As You Like It’ to Westminster

The National Players' will come to Westminster, on Sept. 28 at the Carroll Arts Center with their production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It."
The National Players' will come to Westminster, on Sept. 28 at the Carroll Arts Center with their production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." (COLIN HOVDE/Courtesy Photo / C. Stanley Photography)

The National Players production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is coming to the Carroll Arts Center this weekend.

The production begins at 7:30 pm. Saturday, Sept. 28. Tickets are $22 for adults; or $18 for audience members ages 25 & under and ages 60 & up. CCAC Members get additional 10% off. Tickets are available online or at the box office. The Carroll Arts Center is located at 91 West Main Street in downtown Westminster. For more information call 410-848-7272 or go to www.CarrollCountyArtsCouncil.org.

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“As You Like It” is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, "about girls, boys, losing oneself, and finding oneself again,” according to a news release from the Arts Center. Rehearsals for the production started in June, and the visit to Westminster will be the first stop on the road after the company debuted the show at their home base in Olney.

The classic language of the play drops into a contemporary setting and cast members are excited about the creative ways that modern life enters into the Elizabethan text.

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One of the play’s motifs has been the antics that ensue when city folks venture into the woods. The players will bring the show to audiences both rural like Carroll County and urban like Pittsburgh. One of their goals is to bring arts to communities where it isn’t as accessible.

Lisa Danielle Buch, who plays Rosalind, said it’s not unusual for directors to move Shakespeare into different settings and time periods at this point. With the National Players’ production, elements of the setting mirror discussions in the national consciousness.

When Rosalind’s father is banished from the city and she herself must leave under threat, the director and design teams found echoes of family separation at the US border.

“The themes of Shakespeare, if you break them down are very universal,” Buch said. Audiences who might not feel like they can connect with Shakespeare’s work might be able to relate to the emotions of being separated from one’s family or pretending to be something they are not.

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In preparing for her character, Buch took on the role with the most lines of any of Shakespeare’s female characters.

“She has a voice and she wants to use it,” she said, but she begins the play in an environment where she feels restricted. When she disguises herself as a man for safety, Buch said that they chose not to go with theatrically masculine vocal and body language for the character. Instead, she plays Rosalind as a version of herself that is more confident and free to use her voice through because of her disguise.

Lisa Danielle Buch appears as Rosalind in "As You Like It" with National Players, which will come to Carroll County on Sept. 28, 2019.
Lisa Danielle Buch appears as Rosalind in "As You Like It" with National Players, which will come to Carroll County on Sept. 28, 2019. (COLIN HOVDE/Courtesy Photo / C. Stanley Photography)

As an actor herself, “You rehearse for a long time in you regular clothes...When you put on the costume you already start to feel different," she said. "It’s not a stretch for how Rosalind feels when she goes from wearing woman’s clothing to a man’s.

The only changes to the script are the the songs, for which only the lyrics exist. Some productions chose to set these words to their own music. The National Players instead chose to substitute modern songs in a way that’s modern and surprising, said CJ Riggs, who plays Orlando.

There are a few more surprises in the production that Riggs didn’t want to spoil, but he was delighted by the way the production team has handled Orlando’s love poems or the sword duel.

“This duel is very different and its very contemporary. We just took everything and made it more today, more relevant,” he said. “I hope [the audience] really love it and they go nuts when it happens.”

Banished from the only home she’s ever known, Rosalind escapes to the Forest of Arden with her cousin Celia and their fool Touchstone. While disguised as a man, Rosalind meets fellow outcasts in the forest, including the dashing and lovesick Orlando. Determined to woo him, Rosalind persuades Orlando in her male disguise to win her heart. For only if Orlando loves her as a man will Rosalind know he truly loves her.

National Players is America’s longest-running touring company as they celebrate their 71st season. The company “stimulates youthful imagination and critical thinking by presenting classic plays in invigorating ways for modern audiences,” according to a news release. For more information, visit www.olneytheatre.org/national-players.

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