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Shakespeare production to showcase new Jerry Falwell Library

May 22, 2014 : Liberty University News Service

As You Like It Poster for Shakespeare Summer production at Jerry Falwell Library.

'As You Like It' show times

  • May 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28 - 8 p.m.
  • Location: Jerry Falwell Library

To purchase tickets, visit the Tower Theater website or call the Liberty University Box Office at (434) 582-SEAT (7328) during weekday business hours.

 

All the world’s a stage, and Liberty University is being transformed into one, too, for this week’s Summer Shakespeare production of “As You Like It” in the new Jerry Falwell Library.

The Department of Theatre Arts’ rendition of the pastoral comedy opens tonight at 8 p.m. and continues through Saturday with additional performances Monday through Wednesday.

Liberty debuted Summer Shakespeare with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2009. This is the second year the theatre department has staged a play in one of its non-theatrical facilities on campus, which is in the midst of a $500 million rebuilding. After putting on “Hamlet” late last May in the Hancock Welcome Center, “As You Like It” is also the department’s second stab at a “promenade” production, wherein audiences follow the actors through various locations of a building or outdoor setting to watch as the scenes unfold.

As You Like It Director Scott Hayes
Director Scott Hayes is the associate dean of Liberty University's School of Communication & Creative Arts.

Director Scott Hayes, associate dean for the School of Communication & Creative Arts, said the play’s adaptation to the spacious new library developed naturally, with no revision of Shakespeare’s original text required.

“In this promenade style of theater, the audience moves within the play and the Shakespearean dialogue describes wherever they are,” Hayes said, noting that it eliminates the need for expensive sets. “There are so many beautiful architectural elements we can exploit and, surprisingly, the acoustics within the library are pretty good.”

The $50 million, 170,000-square-foot library opened in January. Architectural elements include a 4-story book tower, rooftop terrace, lakeside balconies, and a floating staircase. It is designed with more than 80,000 square feet of interior and exterior glass, offering plenty of natural light and breathtaking views.

The play will incorporate the use of balconies, both for the actors and the audiences looking down on them. The effect is to transport spectators into the scenes, through not only the actors’ words and gestures, but their own movements and interaction.

“Because the audience travels around, it gets to participate in a much more significant way than with a standard production,” Hayes said. “It’s really a great audience experience because you have to suspend your disbelief.”

Back in their heyday of the late 1500s and early 1600s, Shakespearean performances were often performed in courts or royal halls, and audiences often would engage in impromptu participation, Hayes said.

“(Shakespearean plays) didn’t travel but (the actors) would have to perform wherever they were asked and very quickly,” he said, noting “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was commissioned by the Queen of England and performed in a palace. “That’s what our audiences can expect, an immediacy similar to the effect that the Elizabethans would have experienced,” Hayes said.

The cast of “As You Like It” has been trained to spontaneously interact with members of the audience, and to work around patrons of the library, which will still be open after the 8 p.m. showtimes.

“A lot of times, promenade theatre companies do shows within a market where actors have to be able to deal with inadvertent audience members,” Hayes said.

Spectators buying tickets to the play will be given bracelets allowing them to pass into certain areas as they follow the performance, but other areas are open to the nonpaying public as well.

“Signs will be posted saying we’ll be in a room at a particular time, but people who are there will have an opportunity to watch the show,” Hayes said.

Hayes first worked on a promenade staging of “Romeo and Juliet” in 2011 while serving as chair of the theatre department at Regent University.

Andy Feffken, professor of theatre arts and actor in As You Like It.
Andy Geffken plays Orlando.
Erica Geffken, Liberty University alumna and actress in As You Like It.
Erica Geffken plays Rosalind.

The 14-member cast includes 11 undergraduate students, including a few freshmen from this past fall’s laboratory workshop production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” on the Tower Theater’s Second Stage. Andy Geffken, a professor of theatre arts at Liberty, plays the lead role of Orlando, while his wife and fellow Liberty alum Erica Geffken plays the heroine, Rosalind.

Neal Brasher, the assistant professor of theatre arts who developed the Shakespeare program at Liberty and the off-stage concept with last summer’s performance of “Hamlet,” plays Rosalind’s father, Duke Senior, and his brother, Duke Frederick.