If you go
What: "As You Like It"
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Aug. 11, 12, 18 and 19; 6 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 13 and 20
Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.
Admission: $17 adults, $12 students, children and seniors ages 60 and older; 422-4226 or tickets.artstix.org
Shakespearemachine presents "As You Like It" this month at ArtsLab in downtown Fort Wayne.
Meagan VandeLaar stars as Rosalind in the comedy featuring a number of romantic entanglements. In the show, Rosalind and her cousin, Celia, escape her uncle's court to the Forest of Arden. While hiding out in the disguise of a man, Rosalind counsels Orlando who is in love with her as Rosalind. Meanwhile, a shepherdess falls in love with Rosalind's male persona.
VandeLaar answered some questions via email. Responses have been edited.
Q. Where does Rosalind rank for you among Shakespeare's characters? Where does "As You Like It" rank among shows?
A. Rosalind has always been a "bucket list" role for me; in fact, she is surpassed on my list of dream roles by only one other character (Cleopatra from "Antony and Cleopatra," also by Shakespeare). This role is one that is known among Shakespeare lovers as being one of the best written and most challenging of Shakespeare's female characters, and she has certainly lived up to that. Much like Rosalind is at the top of my list of favorite characters, "As You Like It" ranks near the top of the list of my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies. Its bawdy comedy combined with extraordinary wit make it a joy to watch and perform.
Q. What are the challenges of acting with a mask on? How does that change your approach to the role?
A. Probably the most challenging aspect of mask work, for me anyway, is that takes the actor's face and, to a certain extent, eyes away from the audience as well as from the other members of the cast. This means that everything must be overtly physical, and the any attempt at subtlety gets lost. So, any choices that I make as an actor have to involve my whole body, even more so than usual, but still come from a place of honesty that remains true to the character.
Q. Aside from memorizing lines and staging, what do you do outside of the theater to prepare for a show?
A. I'm a total nerd, and I absolutely love research. Exactly what I research depends on the show. If it's a period piece, I'm doing research on everything from social climate and political happenings to make-up and hairstyles. If it's a Shakespeare or other classical work, I spend a lot of time breaking down the language on top of my other research. I just try to soak up as much knowledge about the world of the play as I can so that when it comes time to begin rehearsing, all of those little tidbits can figure into my character choices.
Q. What do you think from "As You Like It" connects with today's audience?
A. There is a reason The Bard is still so widely revered and performed more than 400 years after he began writing: his work still connects with us all on a very human level. When looking at "As You Like It," themes of power grabs, sibling rivalry, awkward puppy-love, and the fluidity of gender, among others, are all still very prevalent in our society today. That and the...ahem...dirty jokes. Those are still funny, too.
Q. Imagine it's Act I, Scene 1 in a play about a formative moment in your life. What is the setting, what is the first stage direction and what genre is the play?
A. I think that my life would actually work better as a sitcom than a play ... if something can go wrong, or a moment can be awkward, that's what happens. The pilot would probably begin with me walking into my first acting class at Purdue (University), attempting to act cool and flirt with the super cute guy that I had a massive crush on, and putting my hand down wrong on the folding chair next to me so that the seat flips up and hits me in the chin and knocks me out of my chair. Cue theme music and roll opening credits.