Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' moves to Geneva's RiverPark

The transformative power of love is the focus of this year's Shakespeare in the Park play, "As You Like It." It will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at Geneva's RiverPark.

Admission is free, although a $5 donation is suggested.

Rosalind, one of Shakespeare's most inspiring characters, is the daughter of a banished duke who falls in love with Orlando, the disinherited son of one of the duke's friends.

When she is banished from the court by her uncle, Duke Frederick, Rosalind takes on the appearance of a boy named Ganymede. She travels with her cousin Celia and the jester Touchstone to the Forest of Arden, where her father and his friends live in exile.

Performed by the Midsummer Theatre Troupe, the play is a 90-minute comedy appropriate for all ages. Although a humorous tale, the play also presents a powerful message, said director Katrina Syrris of South Elgin.

"What's so beautiful about this show is that the theme is consistently with every character - the transformative power of love; love quite literally turns an adversary into an ally," Syrris said.

Syrris believes it's just as important to give weight to the plot and romances that transpire as it is to garner laughs.

"If you don't give credence to the message, the funnies are just adornments."

She gives the audience time to know the characters before the laughs erupt. However, troupe fans can expect the familiar gags that make the play so unique.

Veteran troupe member Dan McQuaid of Naperville returns as the melancholy nobleman Jacques, "a character who takes himself too seriously, and who is not really comfortable in either of the play's two worlds - the court or the woods," McQuaid said.

"Luckily, the exiles inhabiting the woods are kind to him and tend to laugh off his excesses."

Jacques is meant to be funny, McQuaid noted, "but he is a different kind of funny than many of Shakespeare's characters. He is not love sick."

Playing a more subtle part challenged McQuaid to tinker a bit with the character to get a feel for him.

The costumes

Syrris, who also plays Phoebe, the pastoral girl who falls in love with Ganymede, chose traditional Renaissance-style costumes in vivid colors, accented with flowers for each character: flower crowns, boutonnieres and corsages for visual appeal.

In selecting costume colors, Syrris drew inspiration from the Hindu concept of chakras, seven centers of energy located along the spine. Each chakra has a color representation, and she paired the chakra color with the character's traits.

For example, the main characters Rosalind and Orlando are the most balanced characters, Syrris noted: the most honest, the most moral, the most forgiving, kind and noble characters. They have the most colors in their costumes.

The dominant color is blue, the color of the throat chakra for self-expression. Green, for the heart chakra, represents loving, while purple and white represent the crown chakra and transcendence.

These colors also function as an "Easter egg" surprise, Syrris said, because "the characters who end up together or who are most alike will have matching chakra colors."

What makes the message timeless, Syrris noted, is "you will see traits of someone you know in each and every character. Because of that, each and every character is worthy of redemption, and that's what so beautiful about it."

The director

This is Syrris' first stint at directing the troupe. She takes the reins from Executive Director Kristen Duerdoth, who will play Duchess Frederica and Duchess Seniora.

Syrris is no stranger to the stage; she began her acting career at age 4 and was performing in community theater plays by age 11. She auditioned for the Midsummer Theatre Troupe at age 12 and wowed Toni Hix, troupe founder and artistic director, spurring Hix to invent a third watchman part for Syrris in "Much Ado About Nothing."

As an actor in the troupe, the most important thing she learned was "you have to completely let go." The Midsummer Theatre Troupe performs to huge audiences, and Geneva is the largest audience with close to 1,000 visitors every year.

"To be seen and understood by such a large audience," you have to be very big in your mannerisms, voice and expressions," Syrris said. "It's a fine line between genuineness and almost clowning."

As director, Syrris is also focused on the audience and what it derives from the play. Laughter and gasps are a sign of success.

"What I love about our Shakespeare is that we make it accessible," Syrris said. "Shakespeare doesn't have to be scary, it doesn't have to be elitist." The Bard wrote his plays for the common people just as much for royalty, and he also made fun of royalty in his plays.

She wants the audience to walk away thinking Shakespeare is fun. "I want everyone to walk away feeling they've been part of something amazing."

Midsummer Theatre Troupe members Gary Puckett, Cam Tucker, Amaria Von Dran, Nicolette Pollack and Heidi Schultz, above, and troupe member Dan McQuaid and Executive Director Kristen Duerdoth, far left, will perform in "As You Like It" July 15 in Geneva's RiverPark. photos COURTESY OF MIDSUMMER THEATRE TROUPE
Nicolette Pollack (Cecilia) and Mikkel Knutson (Oliver) share a moment in "As You Like It." COURTESY OF MIDSUMMER THEATRE TROUPE

If you go

What: Shakespeare in the Park's "As You Like It," presented by Geneva Cultural Arts Commission

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 15; seating begins at 5 p.m.

New Location: RiverPark, Peyton and River Lane in Geneva. Due to flooding at Island Park, it will be moved to this more intimate venue, and seating is limited

Admission: Free; $5 donation suggested

Details: Bring chairs and blankets for seating. Includes preshow ballet performance; food available for purchase from Graham's Chocolates and Stockholm's. Geneva Public Library District will provide an on-site children's activity at 5 p.m.

Details: Call (630) 938-4530, or visit <a href=""></a> or ShakespeareInThePark.

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