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Shakespeare's As You Like It Rendered in New Light at KU Theatre

Monday, February 3, 2020

KU students, faculty cast members deliver comedic escapade through the forest

illustration showing a forest on a stage with two people holding hands. 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.

The play is being directed by Professor Leon, a longtime faculty member of the Department of Theatre & Dance, who most recently directed Spring Awakening for the University Theatre. She is working closely with Visiting Assistant Professor Santiago Sosa as text/vocal coach; he will also play Duke Senior. Of the production, Professor Leon says:

“If you love a classic, this production shows how relevant Shakespeare is for our time. 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.”

Tickets to As You Like It are on sale now at the KU University Theatre box office in Murphy Hall and online. Tickets are also available by calling the 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; Sosa, Visiting Assistant Professor, as voice/text coach and fight choreographer; Patrick Suzeau, Professor, as choreographer; Jerel Hilding, Associate Professor, as choreographer; Morgan Davis, an actor, text coach and teaching artist based in Nashville, Tenn., as assistant text/vocal coach; Michelle Stelting, a PhD student from Topeka, as dramaturg; and Mark Nichols, a sophomore microbiology and French double major from Kansas City, Mo., as stage manager; and Caitlin Forgione, a theatre major from Lee’s Summit, Mo., as assistant director.

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

A member of the KU faculty since 2002, Mechele Leon is a Professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of Kansas, where she teaches theatre history, dramatic theory, acting, and directing at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department. Previously, she’s served as Chairperson of the Department of Theatre (2012-2017) and as Artistic Director of the University Theatre (2009-2012). 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 about the Department of Theatre & Dance, please visit theatredance.ku.edu.

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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