Lyon College’s Holloway theater was packed with students and community members eager to see the premiere of Shakespeare’s As You Like It on Thursday October 3.
According to the play’s director, Dr. Fonzie Geary, Lyon’s theater program was founded in 1925. In that near one hundred-year period As You Like It had never been done by the program. “I was really surprised,” said Geary, “This is one of [Shakespeare’s] most popular comedies. I would have thought it would have been done two or three times.”
Geary says he tries to do a Shakespeare play at least once every three to four years so that theater majors get a chance to perform in one before they graduate. “It had been three years,” said Geary. “I needed to pick one and this is a good one that has never been done before.”
One thing that helped sell the performance was the transforming stage. Any play is bound to have stage hands moving props in and out, but having the stage transform is something relatively new to Lyon’s theater program thanks to their new technical director Maggie Gayle. “When I first came to Lyon I didn’t have a technical director,” Geary said. “I didn’t have anyone that could [manage those kinds] of complicated moving parts… we’ve been experimenting a lot more with bigger, more active sets.”
Geary said he thought opening night was fantastic and congratulated all of the students on their hard work. “I thought the kids did a really good job. They work so hard,” he said. “We rehearse two and a half hours a night six night a week. [We] were working last week something like four to five hours a night after going to class, on top of course work and everything else,” he said. “It takes a lot of heart and a lot of dedication. I’m very proud of them.
Many of the performers in the play were seniors, and their experience showed in their performance.
Seniors Olivia Lynch, Basil Gist, and Navy Griffin reflected on their performances in As You Like It as well as their involvement in other plays throughout their time at Lyon.
Gist, who played both the wrestler Charles and the young, love-struck shepherd Silvius commented on the differences between the two roles. “Charles was easy,” he said. “Be big and larger than life. That’s all there is to it.” Gist said that a character like Silvius there was a lot more character study. “I really thought about what it’s like to feel that first love,” he said. “It’s a goofy show but there are stories to tell… first love and first heartbreak… That’s what I thought about.”
Lynch, who played Jaques, said of the character, “He’s contemplative and melancholy. He’s there to make fun of people. That’s kind of how I played him,” said Lynch. She compared her time on stage to her work as assistant stage manager in previous plays. “I love stage managing. It’s all about order and it’s all about making sure everything runs correctly [and] dealing with mistakes as they happen,” she said. “It’s about managing chaos. When you act, you get to be the chaos. You get to play with stuff, make jokes … and run around and make silly sounds... It’s like two sides of the same coin.”
Griffin, who played Touchstone, the clown, said public speaking sometimes makes her nervous, but acting is different. “I don’t have to be myself. I’m somebody else. I’m an idiot clown that’s just here to make people laugh.” Griffin said she has been in eight productions and is no stranger to being a clown. “My first role was Dromio of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors. He was a funny slave an I am again a funny slave.” Griffin said, “It’s hard to be bored of something when the content is so rife with stuff you can play with, but at the same time I do love more dramatic rolls too… I have a chance to be a real human… but I love making people laugh, it’s my bread and butter.”
One member of the audience, Associate Professor of English and resident Shakespeare expert, Dr. Ronald Boling, had high praise for the show. “I loved [the play],” he said. “I thought the ensemble acting was terrific. It’s such a great story and it worked very well. The casting was well done. The set was effective,” he said. “Many of them are seniors and that showed.”
Lyon’s production of As You Like It was a real treat. The play served as an example of what can be achieved when great minds come together and blend their passion with hard work. Don’t miss out on the next one-hundred years of entertainment and be sure to catch the next show.