We that are true lovers run into strange capers.
After fleeing home to escape political persecution, Rosalind finds herself hiding in the countryside among a boisterous cast of characters, making unexpected acquaintances and experiencing the restorative power of love along the way. CSF’s intimate, theatrical production will feature a cast of eight portraying every role in the play.
Since 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has delighted audiences with professional theatre on the CU Boulder campus. Complete your Colorado summer with Shakespeare in the elegant University Theatre.
Performance dates and times:
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m. $18-$54
Saturday, Aug. 10, 2 p.m. $21-$63
Saturday, Aug. 10, 7:30 p.m. $21-$63
Discounts for groups, youth, seniors, students, active military, CU employees and season ticket orders. Learn more
More about the show:Read more
Duke Senior has been overthrown and exiled to the Forest of Arden, leaving his daughter Rosalind at court with her beloved cousin Celia and usurping uncle Duke Frederick. Meanwhile, Orlando has been woefully mistreated by his brother Oliver in the wake of their father’s death and is determined to break free and find his own way in the world by challenging the infamous (and lethal) wrestler Charles.
To the surprise of the court, Orlando defeats Charles, winning both Rosalind’s affection and Duke Frederick’s animosity. After the match, the Duke banishes Rosalind. Celia exiles herself as well. Disguised, they head for the Forest of Arden along with the clown Touchstone. Orlando learns his brother intends to kill him and likewise flees to Arden.
In Arden, Rosalind and her menagerie establish a household among some shepherds; Orlando joins Duke Senior’s forest court and begins writing extravagant poetry dedicated to his lost love Rosalind, thought to be still at court. Rosalind and Celia find the poetry and Rosalind decides to make the most of her disguise (as the boy Ganymede)—she offers to cure Orlando of his lovesickness by pretending to be Rosalind. She teaches Orlando how to woo the “real” Rosalind and further entertains herself by meddling in local shepherd Silvius’ love for the uninterested Phebe (who in turn falls for the attractive young stranger Ganymede). Meanwhile, Touchstone falls in love with a local shepherdess Audrey.
Oliver arrives, seeking Orlando, and is nearly killed by wild animals. Instead, he is rescued by his brother. Overcome by remorse, he cedes their father’s estates to Orlando (and falls in love with Celia). Done with the disguises, Rosalind/Ganymede promises to resolve the tangled web of love triangles and obstacles if everyone will gather the next day, ready for matrimony. As disguises are abandoned and a series of weddings ensue, a courtier reveals that Duke Frederick has been converted to a religious life, and Duke Senior’s position and property have been restored.
—Heidi Schmidt, Dramaturg
When approached to direct As You Like It, my heart definitely swelled a size or two. I have such fondness for the quirky pastiche of characters that run amok in this play. Each inhabitant is a delightful little study, full of wise saws or witty bon mots— often both! There is an element of the outrageous about them, yet somehow they stay grounded in humanity—exhibiting humor and pathos, my favorite combination. A devoted sister-cousin, a railing Duke, a shepherd-philosopher, a love-sick swain: they each play a part in this world’s stage. And then there’s Rosalind. O, Rosalind! A divine authorial creation—her intellect is keen, her thoughts come lightning fast, she’s funny and brave and oh, so witty. Her journey to find her liberty and her authentic self—the journey at the heart of this play—paralleled by Orlando’s similar odyssey—is breathtaking and courageous.
As a self-proclaimed “hopeful romantic,” I’m a sucker for any plot where love is curative and where reconciliation and forgiveness triumph. The plight of Rosalind and Orlando, both victims of incredible loss, resonates: they find their true voices, their true selves when tested. And as a result, they are able to forgive and subsequently find love. The road to self-discovery, even in a place as magical as Arden, apparently isn’t easy. I’m reminded of advice from another play, “To thine own self be true.” Or perhaps a more contemporary adage, “Let your freak flag fly.” Good advice for a happy life, I think. And certainly the folks in this play, Rosalind in particular, are poster children of this sentiment.
Shakespeare included a lot of songs in Arden. I’ve been graced with the chance to collaborate with one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Sam Misner, of the Americana folk duo Misner & Smith. We’ve had a ball talking about nerdy stuff like the dramaturgy of the songs, antiquated poetry schemes and how certain instrumentation can tell a story. Not being a musician myself, it’s been a fascinating lesson for me. And watching a group of gifted musicians jam and improvise on a particular theme is magical! A song can really get to the heart of what one is feeling, and Arden is certainly a place where one can sing freely. My greatest hope is that you will be carried away by the charm of Arden, where truly anything can happen: that you will be reminded to let go of ancient grudges, to feel the song in your heart, and to find, as Duke Senior so aptly states, the “good in everything.”
—Carolyn Howarth, Director
Shakepeare’s shepherds, or the grass is always greener
Shakespeare rarely wrote an original plot. He excelled at adapting (and upgrading) existing stories with added characters, parallel subplots and more complex psychology. What’s less well known is that Shakespeare often did the same thing with dramatic form and genre. Love’s Labour’s Lost (as CSF fans may remember from last year) is both an homage to and a sendup of the fad for sonnets. With As You Like It, Shakespeare is adopting (and tweaking) the English pastoral, a popular form of escapist literature in vogue in the 1590s. American audiences may not be familiar with the form, but the Elizabethans were familiar with the genre’s primary traits, much like we know what to expect when our Netflix queue sorts options by thrillers, romantic comedies, Westerns, etc.
A few key characteristics are helpful here: pastorals idealize and romanticize country life, particularly the imagined lives of shepherds. Shepherds in pastorals rarely have time for actually tending sheep—they’re far too busy falling in love, writing poetry and sharing folksy wisdom with visitors from the city. Pastorals are a city form—written by and for city dwellers.
Pastorals have fallen out of fashion, but many elements persist in American pop culture. The musical Oklahoma! serves as a solid example—written by native New Yorkers and embraced by New York audiences in the 1940s about “country” life in Oklahoma territory a generation before, it tapped into a deep nostalgia for a simpler time and place. American pastoral (if such a form exists) tends to romanticize the cowboy of the American West more than the shepherd of the English countryside. But while the cowboys get more press, shepherds and their sheep are a significant part of the American West. Colorado is actually the third highest sheep producing state in the U.S.
Shakespeare took this largely sentimental genre and added some humor and some depth. In the Forest of Arden, it’s not just the shepherds writing poetry. Nearly everyone does, and it’s often comically bad. Even Phebe tries her hand, violating the unwritten rule that shepherdesses are the subject, not author of poetry. Arden is more than a pleasant, country place to hide out for awhile. It also serves as a mirror, reflecting what each character who arrives there fears, needs or likes of it (hence the title). It is flexible enough to accommodate winter cold and wandering lions.
So we invite you to sit back, leave your city troubles behind, and escape to Arden.
—Heidi Schmidt, Dramaturg
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Emily Van Fleet*
Sean Michael Cummings
Duke Senior/Duke Frederick/Audrey
Costume Shop Manager
Adam M. Dill
Voice and Text Coach
Stephen C. Jones^
Assistant Stage Manager
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