Silvius is in love with Phoebe, who has fallen for a guy named Ganymede, who is really a girl named Rosalind.
And Rosalind, who has been banished from the kingdom, tries not to reveal her true identity while secretly pining for Orlando.
“But love can also be a joy,” said George Judy, the company’s artistic director. “And this play looks at love from different perspectives. There’s love between fathers and daughters and brothers and sisters, as well as romantic love. It gives us the idea of love and finding ourselves and how we fail to know ourselves except in relation to our community or someone we love.”
In other words, “All the word’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players.” Yes, this classic line is included in “As You Like It,” whose romantic circle will keep audiences laughing in Swine Palace’s 90-minute production.
“We’ve cut the play, but we feel the 90 minutes essentially captures the full play,” Judy said. “It will run straight through with no intermission.”
The comedy is Swine Palace’s annual summer Shakespeare production, which will be restaged not only for public performances but a high school tour in the winter. Shakespeare is believed to have written the story in 1599, though its first performance wasn’t until 1603.
The story follows its heroine, Rosalind, who flees to the safety to the Forest of Arden after banishment from her uncle’s court.
Meanwhile, it was love at first sight for Orlando, who first saw Rosalind at the court. But even he eventually is forced out of the kingdom and strikes a friendship with a guy named Ganymede.
Little does he know, Ganymede is Rosalind in disguise. And as Ganymede, she promises to help Orlando win Rosalind’s hand while fending off local shepherdess Phoebe’s romantic infatuation with Ganymede.
And in the middle of it all is poor Silvius, who suffers in his unrequited love for Phoebe.
Swine Palace is giving the story a contemporary feel, placing the kingdom into an urban setting.
“It’s a big city setting, and it’s cold,” Judy said. “And it’s timely with today’s themes of gender confusion and people who have lost who they are. There’s a contrasting duality between the city and the pastoral setting of the forest, where the characters find a sense of love and who they are.”
Composer Jason Chimonides has created songs for the production, some of which are performed by the cast. Chimonides is a freelance director and composer from Baltimore who has worked with Judy on previous productions.
“Shakespeare gives us these songs, and if you do some research, you can find how he says they should be sung,” Chimonides said. “I composed music for a previous production of ‘As You Like It,’ but this music was created especially for this production.”
And singing it will be Cara Reid as Rosalind, Jason Lockhard as Orlando, Fola Afolayan as Phoebe and Michael Pepp as heartsick Silvius. All are members of the LSU Department of Theatre’s new Master of Fine Arts Program, and all are making their Swine Palace debuts with this production. “It’s been great,” Afolayan said. “I’m from North Carolina, and I started LSU in June. I love Baton Rouge.”
As for Phoebe, Afolayan describes her character as assertive and intelligent.
“She’s grounded in her womanhood,” Afolayan says. “But with her love for Ganymede, she shows her vulnerability.”
And as Ganymede, Rosalind finds herself in a delicate position, one in which she must avoid hurting Phoebe while encouraging Orlando’s love for Ganymede’s alter ego.
“I’ve been in several Shakespeare plays in the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival and Shakespeare Dallas, but this is my first leading role in a Shakespeare play,” Reid said. “I was terrified at first, but this is a chance to prove myself.”
Lockhard is an Ohio native who comes to LSU from Los Angeles. He describes the city scenes in this show a “Vegas party” and his character, Orlando, as a loner. But New Orleans native Pepp sees Silvius differently.
“Silvius is just a boy,” he said. “When he meets Phoebe for the first time, he feels like he’s in love.”
And love is what it’s all about in this comedy, where all the world’s a stage.