The great outdoors of Chautauqua County will become the stage of Chautauqua Theater Company next season.
After wanting to share Shakespeare with the community at large for years, the CTC conservatory will put on free productions of Shakespeare’s As You Like It beyond the gates throughout summer 2018, CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba said. It’s a step beyond what CTC did earlier this month, holding a free matinee of Romeo & Juliet.
“We’re doing a lot of work, and a lot of really good work, trying to make the gates much more porous,” Borba said. “I think it’s important. I also think it’s coming into sharper focus for Chautauqua’s vision as a whole, and I’m delighted that we’ll be out in front of that.”
The play will go up in public parks and through partnerships with local organizations, Borba said, although fundraising is not yet underway. Dates are not yet solidified and CTC is still deciding on locations, but Borba said CTC aims to perform As You Like It in places like Jamestown, Mayville and Bemus Point, as well as on Bestor Plaza.
Although parts of the production are still up in the air, Borba said CTC wants to start getting the word out now so Chautauquans know to expect some Shakespeare at the start of the season. Theater-lovers who will be on the grounds during Week Nine in 2018 can also look forward to a play reading as part of the New Play Workshop, he said.
A comedy set in the forest of Arden, As You Like It is accessible to general audiences and easily performed outside, as Shakespeare’s works were back in the day, Borba said. An experienced Shakespearean actor and director, Borba has portrayed Claudius in Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the titular Richard III at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, among other credits.
CTC’s As You Like It will require the full conservatory, and there are no plans to include guest artists since it will go on throughout the season. The design fellows will handle the creative aspects, with Borba serving as director.
Right now, Borba envisions the conservatory will rehearse, perform the play at the top of the season, and then perform between the mainstage shows or perhaps even following a mainstage matinee.
As You Like It will allow CTC to join the history and tradition of performing open air Shakespeare in the summertime.
“It’s that great combination of the immediacy of Shakespeare’s work and the communal aspect of sitting together watching a show,” Borba said. “It’s the perfect combination of that. There isn’t another playwright that you want to do that with in the same way because the plays aren’t written that way.”
And whenever the performances end up on the calendar, Borba encouraged everybody to bring a picnic.