After rocking out this afternoon in Airness, Chautauqua Theater Company’s conservatory actors will switch gears to Shakespeare, performing As You Like It off the grounds.
Conservatory actor David Rosenberg said that the two plays have a lot in common, despite being written centuries apart.
“They’re different, but they’re not such different plays. They’re both about acceptance and joy and friendship and things like that. I’m excited to do both of those plays in one day. I think at the end of the day, I’m going to feel like a rock star.”
-David Rosenberg,Conservatory actor, Chautauqua Theater Company
Airness, Chelsea Marcantel’s new play about the world of competitive air guitar, continues its run with a performance at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, in Bratton Theater. Later, Free Will: Chautauqua Shakespeare will bring As You Like It to Lakewood at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at Southern Tier Brewing Company.
Rosenberg said he also finds similarity in his two characters: Facebender, an overly emotional air guitarist, and the melancholic Jaques, who mopes in the Forest of Arden.
“There’s a great line about Facebender that he uses air guitar to swim against a tide of sadness, and I think Jaques just hasn’t found his air guitar yet,” Rosenberg said. “He hasn’t found the thing that allows him to swim against the tide of sadness. He starts to find it in the middle of the play when this fool comes into his life, but it doesn’t quite work.”
Both shows place a heavy emphasis on music. In Airness, audience members are encouraged to clap and sing along to songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Crazy on You,” whereas As You Like It features diegetic songs from the ’60s that ground the show in its Woodstock aesthetic.
CTC sound design fellow Jeff Sherwood said he kept As You Like It’s sound design simple because of the show’s traveling nature. He and CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba then selected recognizable songs that were within the actors’ musical talents.
“We really wanted to make the music accessible to the wider community outside of Chautauqua Institution, so we decided to have actual ’60s songs in it,” Sherwood said. “My part as a designer was more compositionally based, trying to figure out the cuts and arrangements and the instrumentation of these songs and how to make it fit with the actors’ abilities as musicians.”
Just as air guitarists feed off crowd reactions, Borba said the actors’ performances in As You Like It will involve plenty of audience interaction.
“We really want to embrace the original intent of (Shakespeare’s) plays, which is that they’re very strongly audience-addressed and deal immediately with their surroundings,” Borba said.
In addition to performing two shows in one day, some actors in As You Like It will take on multiple roles within the play.
After taking his bow as Golden Thunder in Airness, conservatory actor Elijah Jones will play Oliver, Corin and William in As You Like It. Jones said he thinks it will be easy to transition between shows because the plays share a comedic style.
“I feel like the way both of them have been directed, we’ve been encouraged as actors to go all out with our choices,” Jones said.
CTC began As You Like It with a June 24 performance on Bestor Plaza before traveling to Jamestown’s Allen Park on June 28. Borba said the reason performances are spread out over the summer and the county comes from a desire to make Shakespeare accessible to the greater community outside Chautauqua’s gates.
Because performances are not back-to-back like other shows, Borba said brush-up rehearsals will help the actors stay polished, something that Jones said he appreciates.
“It will be challenging to remember my lines for As You Like It because it’s been a while since we did that, but as far as changing between the style of Airness and the style of As You Like It, they’re both rock shows in a way,” Jones said. “With As You Like It, we’re on tour, and what’s more rock than a tour?”