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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Davis Shakespeare Ensemble presents ‘As You Like It’

This summer, Davis Shakespeare Ensemble (DSE) will be taking a trip into the enchanted Forest of Arden in their production of Shakespeare’s timeless comedy As You Like It. Incorporating live bluegrass music, this modernized Shakespeare play is set to premiere on June 13 at 8 p.m. and will run until June 30 at the UC Davis Arboretum Gazebo.

Every summer, DSE puts on a production of one of Shakespeare’s famous works. Having presented the historic Henry V last season for their annual summer production, the company decided to take a comedic route this time around.

The play features a series of short songs to carry the plot through the natural landscape of the play. Returning director Rob Salas, a graduate of UC Irvine’s MFA Directing program, saw the potential in the play’s songs to enhance the audience’s experience of the setting. He decided that incorporating actual music to accompany the lyrics of the songs would help to give the play a distinctive edge.

“Our take on it was to take the music and really blow it up so that it kicks off the show, but is still a recurring theme throughout,” Salas said. “The music ties into the forest setting because it’s very earthy and a kind of mountain music. It’s this kind of mystical presence that pulls everyone into the Forest of Arden.”

Richard Chowenhill, alum of the UC Davis Music Department and the company’s associate artistic director, composed the music to accompany the song lyrics. Salas hopes the music will stay true to the natural mountainous feel of his vision for the production.

“The style of the music is inspired by Appalachian music. It has a bluegrass, Ozark feel. We’ll be using banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, kind of unusual instruments,” Salas said.

This production is set to incorporate a live band consisting of multiple musicians from the cast. The vocalist and head of the band is the play’s musician, Lord Amiens, played by DSE founder Gia Battista.
Members of the cast have worked in theatre from Sacramento to New York to the UC Davis Department of Theatre, and all have acted in both classic and modern works of theater.

Acting veteran Casey Worthington portrays the brave, love-stricken Orlando, whom he describes as “a bad poet” who writes poetry anyway. Having played the title role in the ensemble’s last annual summer production of Henry V, Worthington has had his fair share of the professional and passionate atmosphere the ensemble has brought to fans of modern theatre.

“Everybody is just jazzed to be doing this play, no matter how many times they’ve performed before,” Worthington said. “The company is a really impressive thing. They have a really good community support. They have all the mixes of a good regional theatre. They’re young and I have a good outlook for them.”

Hayley Palmer, who will receive her MFA in acting from UC Irvine in 2014, portrays Rosalind, the play’s witty, love-drunk heroine.

“It’s been so much fun. Rob is just so encouraging when it comes to [actor] creativity, but he also has a specific idea in mind and is very passionate about fulfilling his vision of the play,” Palmer said. “It’s just such a great balance between work and play. I hope this company continues to be supported by the community and grow in the future.”

The play will run from Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m from June 13 to June 30. Tickets are $15 for Adults, $12 for Students/Seniors, and $10 for 12 and under. June 13 is a preview performance, and that day only all ticket prices will be $5 off. To purchase tickets visit www.shakespearedavis.com or call (530) 802 – 0998.

AKIRA OLIVIA KUMAMOTO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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