Where do you go when your world falls apart? If you could create your own version of paradise, what would it be like?
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down these tracks
You don’t know where you’re going, but you know you won't be back
In As You Like It, an exiled Duke and his followers make the Forest of Arden their Utopia by finding “tongues in trees, books in these running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” When the Duke’s daughter is also banished, she flees to the forest to find her father. After being mistreated and threatened by his older brother, a young lord finds himself in Arden and is surprised to discover gentleness rather than savagery.
Shakespeare bombards us with plot points until all of these people are living in the forest, where he slows everything down for a series of conversations about love, marriage, and the meaning of life.
Leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine, and all this darkness past
In our modern age, the Internet has spawned a global village where we are connected to one another at the click of a mouse; and yet we desperately need a piece of what Shakespeare gives us in Arden. News may travel the earth faster than ever and a plumber in Pittsburgh may be able to be Facebook friends with a neurosurgeon in Nagasaki, but we have paid a price for these gifts. The world may be more connected on some levels, but it is also growing colder and more isolated in other ways. We’ve been couch potatoes wasting away in front of televisions and now we are computer potatoes vegetating in the dim glow of our laptops. Fortunately for us, however, we have some life lessons we can glean from the “country copulatives” of Arden. Nestled inside this romantic comedy is a treatise on slowing down, on finding a place of peace outside the rat race where a person can boil his uncomplicated life down to: “I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness.”
This train: carries saints and sinners
This train: carries losers and winners
Dreams will not be thwarted, faith will be rewarded
Another cure for what ails our brave, new, cold, computer world can be found in the 400-year-old staging conventions for which Shakespeare wrote. Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed in spaces where the audience surrounded the stage and was bathed in the same light as the actors (the sun at the outdoor Globe theatre; chandeliers, wall sconces, and sun through the windows at the indoor Blackfriars). Returning to these conditions not only allows performers to build bonds with the audience, but it also creates a kind of community that is impossible to find in darkened proscenium theatres. As silly as it might sound, this sort of communal experience combined with the joys of live theatre can make the world a better place. And this communal experience is an all-inclusive journey; Shakespeare wrote his plays to appeal to the unemployed, uneducated groundlings standing in front of the stage as well as to the privileged lords seated in the chambers above and behind the stage. There’s room for everyone on the rides Shakespeare wrote. In As You Like It, we invite you to delight in the journey to Arden and the fun to be had once we get there. Are you ready to ride?
Big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams
Artistic Director and Co-founder
(song lyrics from "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen)
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