ELKINS – The Rustic Mechanicals, West Virginia’s only professional touring Shakespeare company, is bringing its Laugh and Let Go Tour of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” to Elkins at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 21. Directed by Jim Warren, co-founder of the American Shakespeare Center, the 1990s hipster vibe performance will come to life at the new Rotary Amphitheater in Elkins Town Square.
Sponsored by the Davis & Elkins College Theater Department, and hosted in partnership with Elkins Main Street, Elkins Depot Welcome Center and the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the event is free and open for all to share in laughter, music and “the Bard” under a summer sunset.
“At its core, ‘As You Like It’ is a romantic comedy,” said The Rustic Mechanicals co-founder Jason Young. “And while it does explore some deeper philosophical ideas about the importance of slowing down and enjoying life, it is a light, humorous romp through the Forest of Arden, perfect summer fare.”
The popular romantic comedy stirs wit, sentiment, intrigue and love into a charming confection, which challenges the traditional rules of romance. At its heart, a feisty but feminine Rosalind, played by D&E Assistant Professor of Theatre Bridget Rue Esterhuizen, in love with the endearingly naïve Orlando, uses her disguise as Ganymede to counsel him playfully in the art of wooing. Distraction is provided by the remarkably funny Touchstone, and the sonorous tones and lugubrious wit of Jaques.
“Rosalind is funny, smart, creative, fierce, unpredictable and utterly real,” said Esterhuizen. “She gets to tackle gender norms, love vulnerably, and experience romance, friendship and being a daughter. She is utterly contemporary, yet written by Shakespeare.”
Audience members are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, picnics and snacks, but refrain from bringing alcohol. The performance, as in Shakespeare’s day, employs playful audience interaction and engagement with popular songs. The Vintage Theatre Company invites everyone to sing along. In the case of rain, the show will move to the Augusta Dance Pavilion on the Davis & Elkins College campus.
“It’s important that we take advantage of the cultural opportunities that are presented to us,” said D&E Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Division of Creative Arts Michael Doig. “Elkins is a town that has recently become re-energized and reinvigorated. We have always been hard-working and inventive people, and now it’s time to share that with the world. And, especially since Bridget Esterhuizen is part of our community, it’s important that her voice is part of the dialogue. It is her vision that is giving us this wonderful chance to bring a really cool event to our awesome town.”
Esterhuizen has a history of working with director Jim Warren at the American Shakespeare Center based in Staunton, Virginia.
“Bridget has a unique charisma that makes you want to watch her, listen to her, guess and marvel at what she is going to do next,” said Warren. “She has a mercurial magic in her eyes, a mischievous puckishness in her spirit that allows her to inhabit a wide range of characters.”
“Working with Jim on a show with the Mechanicals, five years since the last time Jim directed me, is like being ‘home’ again – but ‘home’ has migrated to West Virginia,” said Esterhuizen. “We are doing the same work, in a new place, surrounded by fresh faces.”
Esterhuizen’s 4-month-old daughter, Freya, joins the troupe for every rehearsal and accompanied them on tour as well.
“Freya loves watching Jim direct; she coos and laughs, and he talks to her,” Esterhuizen said. “I’m newly married, a new mother, and my husband and baby are in the rehearsal room while I’m working. It’s the best mixing of worlds.”
THE RUSTIC MECHANICALS
The Rustic Mechanicals, co-founded by Jason Young and Celi Oliveto, is the state’s only professional Shakespeare troupe. Touring three shows annually, this is the sixth year for their West Virginia Shakespeare in the Park(s) touring program. They have grown from a troupe of seven actors to this year boasting a roster of more than 40 West Virginia artists.
“This is the longest tour in the troupe’s history,” said Young. “We are playing four weekends instead of three and visiting a total of 12 venues, and six of them are brand new for us. Elkins is a very familiar community to us. However, this venue is new. I can’t wait to be in the middle of town while the energy of Augusta is buzzing. We are very grateful to D&E for making this happen.”
After the performance in Elkins, the company travels to Shinnston, Hurricane and Clarksburg.
THE CAST & DIRECTOR
Audiences will see Sean Marko as Rosalind’s suitor Orlando, Sarah Young as Celia, and Daniel Crowley as Celia’s fool Touchstone. Jason A. Young appears as the melancholy Jaques and the lovelorn shepherd Silvius, with Cassandra Noel Hackbart playing the object of Silvius’ affection, Phoebe, as well as Amiens and Duke Frederick. Duke Senior is played by Steve McElroy, who will perform as Corin and Charles the Wrestler, while Sarah Beth Ealy will be seen as Audrey and Le Beau. Michael Vozniak as Oliver and Callia Byard in five roles – as Adam, William, Sir Oliver Martext, Hymen and Jacques de Boys – round out the cast.
“As You Like It” is directed by Jim Warren, with fight direction by Cliff Williams, technical direction by David Byard, costume design by Jason Noland, hair and make-up design by Samantha Huffman, dramaturgy by John Shirley, and production management by Haley Wilson. Sarah Young serves as the troupe’s company manager, with Esterhuizen as the voice coach, Tommy Schoffler as the movement coach, and Dylan Morrison Myers as the text coach.
“I am thrilled to return to West Virginia and play with my friends at Vintage,” said Warren. “‘As You Like It’ is an enchanting play, filled with wisdom, whimsy and song. I can’t think of a more delightful play to be the first Rustic Mechanicals’ show I get to direct.”
For more information about The Laugh and Let Go tour of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” email VintageTheatreCo@gmail.com or call 1-855-VTC-8588.