Shakespeare Comedy Takes Center Stage at ARTi Gras.
For the City Times
WOOD/PORTAGE COUNTy — Shakespeare as a family-friendly rom-com set in the Old West? A brisk and lively 90-minute romp into the forest set in 1879, when men were men…with a twist.
Can true love prevail? Methinks so! That’s the setting for “As You Like It” directed by guest artist in residence Lisa Wolpe with a cast of 15 local actors, and presented as part of the 6th annual ARTi Gras Festival of the Arts, running March 14 – 23.
Lisa Wolpe, a world class Shakespearean actress, director and expert is spending three weeks in residence working with a company of 15 local actors in the Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point and Marshfield area, preparing for the opening night of “As You Like It” on Saturday, March 16 at 7 pm, at the Helen Connor Laird Theatre in Marshfield at the UW campus. The show then travels to Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre for a 3:30 matinee on Sunday, March 17.
The following week “As You Like It” will be performed at Nekoosa High School at 7 pm on Thursday, March 21, with the final performance at the Almond-Bancroft School at 7 pm on Friday, March 22. Wolpe, who has directed and acted in many award-winning productions across the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, and Scotland, arrived in Wisconsin directly from Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, where she spent a month as writer-in-residence at the invitation of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Following her residency here, she flies to England to teach at the Royal Central School of Drama, and will be performing her internationally acclaimed solo show “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender”, playing Leontes in “The Winter’s Tale”, and teaching for Prague Shakespeare Company this July. Among her many accomplishments, she was the founder and Artistic Director for the ground-breaking, all-female, multicultural Los Angeles Women’s
Shakespeare Company for 23 years, and is renowned for her work directing and acting in cross-gender Shakespeare. Her most recent performances include Shylock at Utah Shakespeare Festival last summer, and Ebenezer Scrooge this past Christmas at TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs. Honors include two Congressional Certificates of Merit, the Key to Harlem, and multiple awards for sustained excellence as a producer, director and actress.
““As You Like It” is one of Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedies, filled with wonderful fun. Bad guys have driven the good guys out of town, and our heroine Rosalind runs out into the forest with her plucky friends to hunt for her banished father, test her true grit, and lasso the cowboy of her dreams,” said Wolpe. “One dozen actors play two dozen characters in a dazzling ninety minute, family friendly show featuring celestial singers, death-defying fights, and some of the loveliest poetry to be heard on the stage – set in the Wild West.”
“It is an honor to have someone of this caliber here, working with our local actors,” said Cathy Meils, ARTi Gras Festival Director. “After our first meeting with Lisa, it was clear that everyone involved in the production was thrilled at the opportunity to learn from a true master. But more than that, Lisa brings great warmth and vitality to everything she does. We’re learning first hand why she has become a leading Shakespearean actress and director.”
The cast, which ranges in age from 8 to 68, has been equally enthusiastic. Michael Barrett, who has worked in community theatre as an actor, director and crew member in over 50 productions, said,
“Working with Lisa Wolpe has been some of the most professional, detailed, demanding, and rewarding work I have yet done. I feel honored to have met her.” said Barrett.
Katie Eyers, a theatre major at UW-Stevens Point, agreed.
“It is such an amazing opportunity to work with Lisa on Shakespeare,” said Eyers. “Her genuine spirit and extraordinary talent challenges the actors she works with to delve deeper and more honestly into the work at hand. Her wealth of knowledge flows through the work you do with her and empowers everyone in the room. Every scene and rehearsal is full of depth, life and sincerity. She gives you the permission to be wrong and the comfort to explore, while imbuing you with the knowledge you need to succeed at tackling the works of one of the all time greatest playwrights in human history.”
The 90-minute show will be performed without an intermission. Following each performance, the audience is invited to meet the cast.
Tickets for the show are available through each of the four presenting venues.