Students, Faculty, Administrators to Present Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’
Students, Faculty, Administrators to Present Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’

by Jackie Hennessey
UNH Today Contributing Writer

The last time College of Arts and Sciences dean Lourdes Alvarez was on stage, she played an Oompa Loompa in her high school’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Impressive amounts of blue face paint, no speaking, just being silly,” she remembered. “That was 30 years ago. Whoops, no, 40 years ago.” 

Alvarez will be on stage again on Friday, April 22, at Bucknall Theater in Dodds Hall in the theater program’s production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. She will play the part of Hymen, the god of marriage. She joins President Steven Kaplan, Jason DeGroff, director of the Chargers Marching Band, and Martin O’Connor, associate professor of fire science and the University chaplain, who each will play Hymen at different performances.

The theater program will present Shakespeare's As You Like It April 21-23.

The production takes place Thursday, April 21, through Sunday, April 23, at 8 p.m. A matinee performance will take place on Friday, April 22, at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets.

As You Like It
is a culmination of a series the theater program has hosted this year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. “Shakespeare’s celebrated romantic comedy follows Rosalind, one of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines, as she flees court disguised as a man for the fantastical forest of Arden,” explained director Jessica Silsby Brater, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, visiting assistant professor and theater program director. “There she (and just about everyone else) falls in love.”

Brater said that at a university whose mission focuses on experience-based learning, it’s no surprise to find administrators, faculty and staff so willing to stretch themselves in this way, joining the student cast. Alvarez said she is “excited and more than a bit terrified” about performing in a Shakespeare play.

Alvarez said she knows well the power that comes from experiential learning. “As a faculty member at Bard College, I saw the power of theater to help students become more confident, work together in teams, solve problems and do creative work,” she said. “I was teaching a Spanish literature class to a really amazing group of students. One day, as class was ending after a robust discussion of a rather challenging play, I reminded everyone that they had a three-to-five-page paper due in a few days. `We don’t want to write a paper,’ one student said. `OK,’ I replied, `then what are you proposing?’”

The students proposed putting on the play. Alvarez said she was stunned and she asked them if they had any idea how much more work that would be. “They insisted,” she said. “We worked hard, had a blast and put on such a memorable show. It is one of my fondest memories of teaching at Bard. That experience changed my whole approach to teaching and convinced me of the power of experiential education.”

Students in the UNH production of As You Like It said they can’t wait to perform with Kaplan, Alvarez, O’Connor and DeGroff. “I think it’s totally fantastic that President Kaplan and Dean Alvarez, who are so important to this school, are supporting us and showing that the arts are valuable to this school,” said Erica Quaedvlieg ’18, who plays Phoebe in the production. “It is a great experience for them because it allows them to feel what we as actors on the stage feel with each production we do.”

The production is a collaboration of the theater program and English department, as students in Margaret Savilonis’ dramaturgy course are working with Brater on the script and on developing lobby displays, program production notes and other materials. Each student researches a topic such as power, violence or love in As You Like It, and they use that research to help craft materials for the audience.

Savilonis said it’s been particularly exciting because four students in the dramaturgy course are also actors in the play. “They’re completely immersed in the world of performance, and they are also thinking about the work from the dramaturg’s point of view,” she said.

One hands-on assignment was addressing the issue of cuts Brater wanted to make to the script. Savilonis brought Brater’s queries to the class, and they discussed many different possible solutions, created proposals with rationales and gave them to Brater so she could make her decisions.

Catherine Cinque ’18, an English and communications major, said she enjoys having the opportunity to make an impact on the production. “I love the English and theater collaboration because we are able to study a different type of text,” she said. “The majority of the English courses I have taken throughout my educational career explored novels, so expanding the types of literary works we read was really interesting. I enjoy getting to understand different scripts on a deeper level. Dr. Savilonis encourages us to state our thoughts and opinions and form well-rounded arguments. We really have an engaging conversation about different works of literature."

Cinque and Quaedvlieg both said they like how relevant the play is to life today. “I think Shakespeare shows us that people really haven't changed in the hundreds of years we have been reading his works,” Cinque said. “People still have the same emotions and desire for power or love; these are very relevant emotions today. Plus, his characters are relatable. You can find the same anxieties or hopes the characters display in our lives today.”

Brater said she is inspired to watch how the students – and those performing cameos – can “find the fun and contemporary resonances in this 400-year-old play.”

“The challenge for student artists is not only to develop a close reading of a text that is sometimes like a foreign language in its complexity for contemporary English speakers, but also to mine their own experiences and personalities for resonances in bringing these Elizabethan characters to life on stage,” she said. “I’ve been amazed at their bravery and creativity in taking on this challenge. What better way to honor Shakespeare’s legacy on the 400th anniversary of his death?”

Bookmark and Share

Back to the Front Page