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Arts and Entertainment

"Shakespeare At The Columns" Returns With "As You Like It"

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(Poster design courtesy Actors Theatre of Missouri)
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Actors Theatre of Missouri presents their seventh annual production, in association with the Springfield Art Museum, of “Shakespeare at the Columns.” Every summer the company presents a Shakespeare play in the Art Museum’s outdoor amphitheater, located between the Art Museum building and Phelps Grove Park on Bennett Street, just west of National Avenue.  They will present the comedy “As You Like It,” directed by Meg Rice, this weekend and next, Thursdays through Saturdays July 11-20, all at 7:00pm.  Two of the production’s actors visited KSMU to talk about the production: Elisabeth Bonkosky (Rosalind) and Graham Weldon (Orlando).

   “’As You Like It’ is one of Shakespeare’s more famous comedies, one of his more popular ones,” said Bonkosky. “It’s a pastoral comedy, so it’s mostly set out in the Forest of Arden. It’s a romantic comedy, it’s got three different love stories. It’s a lot of fun.” Added Graham Weldon, “It’s a hilarious mess!  Elisabeth plays Rosalind, who decides to dress up as a man in order to…”—Bronkosky finishes Weldon’s sentence—“…to give love lessons to Orlando, played by Graham, who is a hopeless romantic.” The character is described in the production’s promotional blurb as “stalwart but somewhat dim”, with which Graham Weldon enthusiastically agreed.  “In the end they wind end up together—of course it is a comedy, spoiler alert!”

“We’ve decided to update it to the 20th century—we’ve set it during the Great Depression. Our director Meg Rice—wonderful person—she describes our production as ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ at the circus.”  That accounts for Duke Senior and his band of carnival performers who find respite in Forest of Arden.

Bronkosky said she feels the Depression-era updating fits the story “fairly well, considering that most of it is in a more rural setting. So it is relatively easy to capture the poverty of the situation, at least in the forest scenes. And Act I is set in the dukedom, before my character Rosalind is banished away to the forest. And so, that can also show the high class stratification at the time (of the Depression). Some people were doing fairly well for themselves at that point.”

Bronkosky and Weldon also mentioned “kids doing the preshow, with some clowning, some tumbling. It’s great fun to watch, they’re wonderful.” In addition, Weldon said, “there’s also a wrestling scene during the show where I wrestle another man, and it’s… oh, it’s absolutely crazy, but it’s so much fun.”

It’s free and open to the public, but Actors Theatre will accept donations to, they say, “offset the cost of bringing free Shakespeare to Springfield. Food vendors will be on site, or you can “bring a picnic—without alcohol,” says Elisabeth Bonkosky.  “Bring sunglasses, highly recommended; maybe some bug spray if you’re squeamish about mosquitoes.  But it’s been lovely outside these past couple of nights.”  Bring lawn chairs and blankets for seating.  If the weather does get either too hot or too wet or stormy, they’ll move indoors to the Art Museum auditorium.

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/springfieldshakes/events/.