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February 24, 2024

Students explore identity in 'As You Like It'

Madison+Rodgers%2FObserver+Staff%0AStudents+in+the+Theatre+Department+rehearse+the+spring+play%2C+dressed+as+hippies+in+the+Vietnam+Era.+This+year%2C+Augustana+Theatre%E2%80%99s+spring+production%2C+directed+by+Jennifer+Popple%2C+is+a+twist+on+a+classic+Shakespeare+play.+%E2%80%9CAs+You+Like+It%E2%80%9D+combines+Vietnam+with+Shakespeare%E2%80%99s+wit%2C+to+tackle+modern+issues+of+identity%2C+gender+and+love.
Madison Rodgers/Observer Staff Students in the Theatre Department rehearse the spring play, dressed as hippies in the Vietnam Era. This year, Augustana Theatre’s spring production, directed by Jennifer Popple, is a twist on a classic Shakespeare play. “As You Like It” combines Vietnam with Shakespeare’s wit, to tackle modern issues of identity, gender and love.

Madison Rodgers/Observer Staff Students in the Theatre Department rehearse the spring play, dressed as hippies in the Vietnam Era. This year, Augustana Theatre’s spring production, directed by Jennifer Popple, is a twist on a classic Shakespeare play. “As You Like It” combines Vietnam with Shakespeare’s wit, to tackle modern issues of identity, gender and love.
Madison Rodgers/Observer Staff
Students in the Theatre Department rehearse the spring play, dressed as hippies in the Vietnam Era. This year, Augustana Theatre’s spring production, directed by Jennifer Popple, is a twist on a classic Shakespeare play. “As You Like It” combines Vietnam with Shakespeare’s wit, to tackle modern issues of identity, gender and love.

Shakespeare’s famous words and 1960s second wave feminism are two things that can be expected of the spring production of “As You Like It.” The application of the Vietnam War era brings a new spin to a classic piece of literature.
“It actually shows how forward thinking and timeless Shakespeare was,” said director Jennifer Popple, who is an assistant professor in both the Theatre and Women and Gender Studies Departments. “These women, Rosalind and Celia, are both extremely powerful.”
Set in an era of conflict, the play takes on more than just gender roles, and tackles questions of identity, challenging both the director and actors.
“When I originally chose the script, I thought I would be investigating gender as the primary theme,” said Popple. “But after getting into rehearsals, I realized that the show is about finding one’s true identity. Everyone that goes to the forest, by choice or by force, has an opportunity to find their own identity – that identity is ultimately kinder and more geared toward friendship and a simple life.”
Even with the new setting, the classic lines of Shakespeare still remain.
“My character Jaques is in charge of delivering the well-known ‘All the world’s a stage’ monologue,” said actor Gbadebo Balogun. “I’ve been obsessed with this monologue for a while and so getting the part of Jaques was like a dream come true. He’s such an interesting and complex character and so getting to sick my teeth into the role has been a reward in challenge.”
Bridging the worlds of Shakespeare and the 60s together allows for a more contemporary, but impactful layer of character for the actors to explore.
“We also talked a lot about the 1960s and how that decade would have influenced all of these people,” said Popple. “Jaques, in our show, is the way he is because he went to Vietnam; his melancholy is based on the horrors he saw and experienced there. Other characters really embrace the hippie lifestyle – Duke Senior becomes a peaceful leader and Oliver and Duke Ferdinand, the “villains” of the show, are so impacted by their experiences in the forest that they are both spectacularly transformed at the end.”
It’s not just the script that allows the performance to transcend from the 1600s to the 1960s, but the actors behind the characters.
“Debo (Balogun) does an incredible version of one of the most famous monologues of all time, the first line will hook you,” said actor Gary Miller. “That’s what good storytelling is supposed to do, hook us in and reel us into the reality of the moment.”
Another actor is junior Rowan Crowe in the role of Rosalind. Crowe brings both depth and understanding to her performance.
“I love that this show is about more than love at first sight,” said Crowe. “It’s about falling deeply in love but then learning that true love is not a fantasy. We learn that true love means to love your partner through thick and thin, even when they weep for nothing or laugh like a hyena.”
Miller said Rowan captures the complexity of gender roles and identity.
“I would say Rowan really does an incredible job of using not only her femininity but also tapping into her masculinity,” said Miller. “I think the performance is real but comedic.”
The ensemble, set, and script work as a whole to provide Augustana with a Shakespearean standard with a twist.
The first performance will take place on May 1 in Potter Theatre at 7:30 pm. Performances continue on May 2, 8, and 9, at 7:30 pm.
Performances on May 3 and May 10 take place at 1:30 pm.

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Students explore identity in 'As You Like It'