All the World’s Indeed a Stage in the School of Performing Arts’ Production of ‘As You Like It’

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Costumer designer and graduate student Laura Vitale makes an adjustment on a costume for the upcoming production of “As You Like It.”
Costumer designer and graduate student Laura Vitale makes an adjustment on a costume for the upcoming production of “As You Like It.”

The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts’ production of “As You Like It” opens April 23 for eight performances in Squires Studio Theatre.

One of William Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, “As You Like It” follows Rosalind into the Forest of Arden as she is banished from the court by her powerful and controlling uncle, Duke Frederick. Exploring the complexity of what it means to be human, the comedy unfolds with role playing, gender switching, misfired affections, and, of course, song and merriment.

Virginia Tech’s production, directed by Natasha Staley, an associate professor of voice and acting, draws its inspiration from both New York City real estate moguls and the 1969 Woodstock music festival. It explores themes of family rivalry, corporate restraints, and power structures in conflict with desirable social freedoms, acceptance of love in varying forms, and nonconformist identity ideals.

The production’s costume designer, Laura Vitale, has used costume to help express the play’s themes.

“The rich, undeserving, and rigid members of Duke Frederick’s court wear suits devoid of any vibrancy,” said Vitale, who is also a master of fine arts student in costume design. “The exiled members of Duke Senior’s court have traveled from that suit world, but have adapted themselves while embracing the explorative nature of our Woodstock-inspired forest. There are nonbinary characters, royalty, disguises, gender swaps, and a clever jester. Our costumes are mixed with Shakespearean-era elements to help root us in this story.”

Estefania “Nia” Perez-Vera, a master of fine arts student in scenography, designed a playful set using bungee cords.

“The bungee cords create a net-like effect that has the qualities of a forest — density, asymmetry, and unpredictability,” said Perez-Vera. “But the cords are also flexible in their simplicity, and therefore they become a playful tool for the actors. They are meant to be touched, to be pulled and pushed. The characters can hide in them, travel through them, and pin love poems to them.”

Performances of “As You Like It” are April 23–26 at 7:30 p.m.; April 27 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and April 29–30 at 7:30 p.m. All performances are in Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Avenue on the Virginia Tech campus.

Written by Amy Baldwin, a graduate student in directing and public dialogue in the School of Performing Arts.