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Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' rendered in new light at KU Theatre

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Illustration of a stage with a forest of trees and a path. Two figures are standing on the path holding handsLAWRENCE — "As You Like It" by William Shakespeare kicks off the University Theatre’s spring season. This pastoral comedy, rendered in new light, plays weekends Feb. 21 through March 1 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall.

Director Mechele Leon’s adaptation brings the play into the world of 1930s Europe. The production highlights finding individual freedom in a world of political tyranny. As with many of Shakespeare’s works, this play includes humor, bawdiness, gender-bending disguises, love-struck characters overcoming odds, songs, dancing and a good dose of rustic revelry.

Leon, a longtime faculty member of the Department of Theatre & Dance, most recently directed "Spring Awakening" for University Theatre. She is working closely with Santiago Sosa, visiting assistant professor, who is serving as a text/vocal coach. He is also the fight choreographer and will play Duke Senior. 

“If you love a classic, this production shows how relevant Shakespeare is for our time,” Leon said. “The Crafton-Preyer Theatre will be transformed into both the all-too-real world of fascism and the fantasy of the Forest of Arden. Audiences will follow Rosalind through the forest as she carries on a hilarious charade and ultimately finds love. Student cast members are diligently working side by side with faculty actors in key roles. Moreover, faculty choreographers are bringing their talents to the production, adding delightful dances that will show off the fruits of the newly merged Department of Theatre & Dance.”

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 22, 28 and 29 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 23 and March 1. Tickets to "As You Like It" are on sale now at the KU University Theatre box office in Murphy Hall and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling University Theatre at 785-864-3982. Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors/KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Group rates are also available.

The creative team includes Dennis Christilles, associate professor of scenography, as scenic and lighting designer; he will also play Adam. Additional creative team members are Kelly Vogel, resident artist/academic associate, as costume designer; Patrick Suzeau, professor, as choreographer; Jerel Hilding, associate professor, as choreographer; Morgan Davis, an actor, text coach and teaching artist based in Nashville, as assistant text/vocal coach; Michelle Stelting, doctoral student from Topeka, as dramaturg; Mark Nichols, a sophomore in microbiology and French, from Kansas City, Missouri, as stage manager; and Caitlin Forgione, a theatre major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, as assistant director.

The cast is composed of the following KU students: Elsa Bernauer, a senior in English and theatre performance from Leawood, as Rosalind; Michael Ostermann, a junior in chemical engineering and theatre performance from Lawrence, as Orlando; Brad Mathewson, a first-year student in theatre design from Topeka, as Jaques; India MacDonald, a first-year student in theatre performance from Topeka, as Celia; Matthew Reynolds, a senior in theatre performance from Overland Park, as Duke Frederick; Kieran Regan, a senior in graphic design from San Clements, California, as Touchstone; Garrett Claud, a senior in theatre performance from San Clemente, California, as Oliver; Adam Baughman, a senior in theatre performance from Shawnee, as Silvius; Dominique Lorae, a senior in theatre performance from Shawnee, as Phoebe; Cole Gomez-Maldonado, a junior in theatre performance and film & media studies from Wayzata, Minnesota, as both Charles and William; Aubrey McGettrick, a sophomore in theatre and Spanish from Wichita, as Madame le Beau; Jenny Sledge Harris, a doctoral student from Annapolis, Maryland, as Corinne; Cicely Stevenson, a sophomore in dance and theatre performance from Nauvoo, Illinois, as the Doe; Jillian Wilson, a sophomore in theatre performance from Chanute, as Audrey; Andrew Bemis, a junior in theatre performance from Chapman, as Lord 1; and Elijah Olson, a sophomore in theatre performance from Hiawatha, as Lord 2.

A member of the KU faculty since 2002, Leon teaches theatre history, dramatic theory, acting and directing at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is the department's director of graduate studies and has served as the department chair and University Theatre director. In 2017, she directed "Spring Awakening" for the University Theatre. She’s also directed her translation and adaption of Molière’s "The Rehearsal & The Hypochondriac." She adapted Brecht’s "Man is Man," with original music by Ryan McCall. Other University Theatre productions include "George Dandin," "The Maids," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "Shiloh Rules," "Shakespeare in Hollywood" and "Adding Machine: The Musical." Her specialty is the history of French theatre with a focus on cultural politics and national identity. She edited the anthology "A Cultural History of Theatre in the Enlightenment" (Bloomsbury, 2017). She also published "Moliere, the French Revolution, and the Theatrical Afterlife" (University of Iowa Press, 2009), which earned the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History.  Her current research explores 20th-century French cultural diplomacy through the work of French language theatre in the United States. Additionally, she created and performed the solo piece "Bladder Interrupted: A Self-Story About Cancer" at venues in Kansas City and in New York City. 

The University Theatre is a production wing of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions during the academic year. The University Theatre productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees and supported by Truity Credit Union. For more information on the University Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit KUtheatre.com.

The department is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.

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