APU’s theater department started their season with Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on Thursday, Oct. 6. After months of rehearsing, decorated director Eric Scott Gould and the cast were prepared for their rendition of the play.
A day before the play’s opening, senior acting major Savannah Shaffer, who plays the lead role of Rosalind, spoke about her anticipation for opening night.
“I’m very excited for opening night, I think as we all are,” Shaffer said. “I love this cast, we’re just a great group of people and I think that we have that raw energy coming in. We really have made great strides forward, so I think it’s going to be a great opening night.”
The production used a minimalist approach to the props in the play.
“With the minimal set, it allows the story to be told by the people who are on the stage and not necessarily the things that inhabit the stage,” Shaffer said.
Rather than elaborate sets and backdrops as seen in some productions, “As You Like It” takes place on a plain wooden stage with a wooden backdrop.
“You see us use a lot of boxes that we move around and create to be bushels of hay or stones, and the actors are in charge of making that come to life themselves,” Shaffer said. “It gives the actors a challenge to truly live in that environment of a minimal set, which then just encourages us to become real life people on the set and hopefully to empower the audience to believe that as well.”
Rosalind’s counterpart, Orlando, is played by senior acting major Owen Smith.
“Shakespeare, what a wonderful opportunity,” Smith said. “To have the opportunity to work with Eric Scott Gould, and my cast members as a team and to go out there and kick butt and have Shakespeare’s words be our words, and give it our all and make it redeem the audience––that’s an absolute gift and I’m totally grateful to God for that.”
Smith explained what it’s like the moment before stepping out on stage as Orlando.
“I have to give it to God. What I think mentally and physically: where am I? My moment before: what does this character want and what am I going to do about it? And I do it with urgency and I make it life and death, and I give it all I got, physical and vocal energy, to get what I want,” he said.
With Gould’s directing style, the creation of this production gave the actors a lot of freedom in the direction of the play.
“A lot of times directors will come in with an idea of what they want the show to look like blocking wise, but [Gould] came in and essentially told us ‘whatever impulse you have and wherever you feel this character is going to be on stage, just do that and then we’ll see what it looks like,'” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said Gould allows the cast to have creative liberty while still ensuring the play flows well.
“He’s there to give us as much freedom as artists as possible,” Shaffer said.
Gould has acted in numerous TV shows, films and theatre productions in addition to his several director roles.
“I think they have all grown over the course of this process tremendously,” Gould said. “That is really tremendous to see, when you have young artists and you’re watching them come into their own and really take leaps forward and that’s what it’s all about, it really doesn’t get any better than that.”
Gould said the work the students do in college will lend itself to their future careers.
“I want them to be fierce, I want them to be forces of nature,” Gould said. “If they can do this and master this stuff, showing up for a sitcom audition is going to be a piece of cake.”
APU’s production of “As You Like It” will be showing from Oct. 6-15. Tickets are sold at apu.edu/theater.