Theatre in the Rough co-director Katie Jensen has been acting for 28 years, and Jacques - the cynical, love-wary lord of William Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It" - is the toughest role she's played.
"He has one of the toughest language knots that I've ever had to read," Jensen said. "I had to go back to some of my mentors in college and say, 'What do you think this means?" I had to call a professor I used to work with in England. There's just some things like that in this play. If we don't know what it means, and our actors don't know, then we've found someone who knows."
So went the pre-production language work on Theatre in the Rough's mostly straightforward production of the play, a project Jensen and husband/co-director Aaron Jensen have had in mind for three years.
"As You Like It" opens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 5 and runs through March 27.
Theatre in the Rough produced an all-puppet version of another Shakespeare comedy, "Merry Wives of Windsor," two years ago. And in fact, the company's first play, "A Midsummers Night's Dream," 14 years ago at McPhetres, was also a Shakespearen comedy. Elmore and Jensen starred in "Midsummers," as did Eddie Jones, who plays Oliver in "As You Like It."
"This is a hard one," Jensen said. " 'Merry Wives' was a bit lower on substance. This story is more difficult, the characters are more complicated, and there are more things going on. It makes it ultimately more rewarding."
When it debuted in 1599, "As You Like It" was the first production at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The play includes the famous line "All the world's a stage," a reference to the Globe's Latin motto, "Totus Mundus Agit Histroinem."
The play is known for its whimsical language games, particularly in the interplay between best friends Rosalind (Doniece Falcon) and Celia (Emily Windover); the springtime feel of the Forest of Arden; themes of love and trust; and its complicated role reversals. Rosalind's masquerade as a young countryman, Ganymede, has spawned countless essays on gender stereotyping.
"Almost everyone in the show goes through a life change," Jensen said. "It has a wide range of characters, and that is a lot like Juneau. It's a small town, and because of that everything is condensed, including the people. They're just very extreme, and they go through changes."
"This is one of the great comedies," Elmore said. "It has four weddings at the end, you can't beat that. And it has one of the most compelling characters in the entire canon: Rosalind. She's the best. She knows what love is, and she knows what love does to people, but she still allows herself to be in love. That's what makes her great."
Falcon, recently Scrooge's fianceé in "A Christmas Carol," plays Rosalind. Her husband, Zach Falcon (Scrooge in "Christmas Carol), plays Orlando, her love interest. Zach's sister, Asha Falcon, plays Phoebe, Courtier and a forest/pirate.
"Most of the jokes that seem obscure in this play are actually very dirty, so it's best that they're not immediately recognizable," Zach Falcon said. "If you don't know what you're saying, nobody else will either. And that's the challenge of it, that you know what you're saying, and you take the time and commitment to communicate that. There's nothing worse than watching Shakespeare when it's unintelligible, because it doesn't have to be."
"There are many characters in his comedies that have just crazy vocabularies," Doniece Falcon said. "I played Mistress Quickly in 'Merry Wives' and she spoke like a crazy woman. ... This has been easier for me.
"Rosalind's language, her take on relationships and on women and men and how they behave, is really witty," she said. "She's having fun with it. She's in love with this guy. She doesn't want to screw it up. She's really enjoying the freedom of being a boy and being able to say whatever you want."
The forest scenes in "As You Like It" include contemporary music, written by Sofa Kings Bob Banghart and Patrick Murphy, and sung by singer/songwriter/local cocktail waitress Patrice Helmar (Amiens, Courtier & Audrey).
"We're not trying to set the play in an absolute modern era, and we're not entirely interested in setting them in a strictly Elizabethan era," Elmore said. "It's a play about two different worlds. In the world of the city, we thought we'd make it an Elizabethan sound. And in the world of the forest, where the adventure begins, we thought we'd borrow that genteel seediness."
CAST & CREW
Director - Aaron Elmore; Assistant director - Catherine Melville; Music - Bob Banghart & Patrick Murphy; Set Design - Eitak Nesnej; Costume Design - Aaron Elmore.
Rosalind - Doniece Falcon; Celia - Emily Windover; Orlando - Zach Falcon; Oliver - Eddie Jones; Touchstone & Adam - Aaron Elmore; Duchess Fredrika & Duchess Senior - Sue Wilder; Jacques & Le Beau - Katie Jensen; Phoebe, Courtier & Forest/Pirate - Asha Falcon; Amiens, Courtier & Audrey - Patrice Helmar; Silvius & Courtier - Rory McMahon; Corin, Charles the Wrestler & Hymen, god of marriage - George Holly.