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As You Like It

January 5

March 6, 2011

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by William Shakespeare
directed by Gary Griffin

A CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR GARY GRIFFIN

Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin shares some of his early thoughts about directing his first full-length Shakespeare play, As You Like It.

CST:   Why did you decide upon As You Like It as your first mainstage Shakespeare to direct here at CST?

GG:   Sometimes when you go back to read a play again, something startles you about it, and that's what gets me excited. What surprised me is how much this play is about identity, those times in your life when you go on an adventure and start to explore aspects of yourself that you wouldn't normally. You take risks, and you learn about yourself simply by being away from all the things that defined you before. In As You Like It, the characters' definitions of themselves are changed once they enter the Forest of Arden. Similarly, their sexuality is explored through all of the role-playing that goes on. 'I'm a girl, pretending to be a boy, but talk to me as if I'm a girl'—those levels of play I found amazing. There's nothing supernatural in As You Like It, no ghosts or fairies, and to me it's the most natural of Shakespeare's plays. But what is extraordinary is the way in which these characters take risks and go outside themselves—that's what really excited me about directing this play for the first time.

CST:   As you start to think about working on the play, which characters and relationships are you finding the most intriguing?

GG:   Certainly to Rosalind, whom I see as the protagonist of the play. She has such an open heart. And while she's not a risk-taker to begin with, when she meets Orlando and sees him succeeding in the faces of impossible odds, she's inspired by his spirit. Prior to that, she just has this great best friend, Celia—and I love their friendship. There's a kind of love between young girls at that age, before they enter into their first relationships. Celia is willing to risk everything because she's so devoted to Rosalind. Of course, once they enter the Forest of Arden, all of their relationships are about to change...

CST:   Why does their journey into forest have such a profound impact on these characters?

GG:   It's the equivalent of going off to college now. All of the sudden, there are people who don't know us, and we can take on new roles and experiment with a different character to see who we are. We learn by the ways people react to us in the different disguises we try on. And while we continue to do this throughout our lives, it is perhaps most profound when we're young adults leaving home for the first time. I think ultimately we choose our identity, we choose our personal character. We like to think it's been given to us. But as we mature, our character develops through the choices we make. That's what I think the title's about: As You Like It. That's who you are. That's what you like. And you can only discover that through trying out new roles and taking on "disguises" as you grow up.

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