CORRECTION: A previous version of this article spelled the director's name wrong. Elon News Network regrets this error. 

Elon University’s performing arts department presents William Shakespeare’s comedy, “As You Like It” for the main stage spring play from April 11 to 13. 

When deciding on productions for the 2023-24 season, director and Elon professor Kevin Otos advocated to the season selection committee for “As You Like It,” which was then voted on by the rest of the performing arts faculty.

One of the characteristics of Shakespeare comedies is the larger cast sizes, with this production including a cast of 24 characters across classes. 

“This one’s even larger than most of the Shakespeare casts I do,” Otos said. “We’ve adapted the play so we need more actors, we’ve got the student body, we can populate the cast and they’re having a great experience.”

Nia Bedard | Elon News Network
Senior Cara Johnson plays the role of Hymen in the spring 2024 play "As You Like It." Johnson is surrounded by the rest of the cast during rehearsals April 10 in McCrary Theatre.

With the increase in cast size, this gave the opportunity for more students to participate in the play, including freshmen BFA acting students Aubrey Kocsis and Ella Schultz. 

“This is my first show I’ve done since I was in middle school,” Kocsis said. “It’s been such a fun process and what I didn't realize about the shows is that the big thing that happens is you really make deep connections with other people that you're in the show with, so I feel so much closer to my cohort and to the whole acting program.”

Kocsis, who plays Charleen — a character added to the show — did a large amount of stage combat as a part of this role.

“It was really exciting because I really never done that before,” Kocsis said. “I had a little bit of trepidation, but I was very excited to take on this challenge and it really lived up to all my hopes and dreams.”

Schultz also does a large amount of physical acting in her role as Audrey. 

“The first note that I got was that she’s really dumb and I was like, ‘Okay I could take that in a lot of different ways,’” Schultz said. “My character is kind of like a barn animalistic character, so she’s not quite there in the head, but she’s really active in her body and I think that translates well with her innate sexual desire."

Nia Bedard | Elon News Network
From left to right: freshman Ella Schultz as Audrey, sophomore Anabelle Sumera-Decoret as Celia, senior Brynn Lackey as Rosalind and junior Kelli Geiger as Phoebe rehearse April 10 in McCrary Theatre.

In addition to adapting the cast size, Otos said he adapted the plot of the play over the summer to increase the conflict throughout the play. 

“I was cutting it and then my experience with this play as an audience member and I’ve also acted in it years ago, was that in the middle the conflict kind of goes away, so I wanted something that would keep the conflict going through the forest,” Otos said. “Zombies came to mind as an impulse and it just kept stirring in my head for the next couple weeks while I continued cutting the script.”

The adaptations that Ortos added also gave the actors a large amount of freedom when interpreting their roles and bringing them to life on stage. Senior Gavin Blayne, who plays Orlando, was excited to act in a Shakespeare play with the adaptations that Otos added. 

“Just getting an opportunity to be in a Shakespeare show on a mainstage is an incredible opportunity,” Blayne said. “There was definitely a lot of freedom, a lot of moments throughout the rehearsal process where we were able to just play and figure out what we wanted to make this show.”

The excitement was also shared by senior Brynn Lackey, who plays Rosalind.

Nia Bedard | Elon News Network

From left to right, sophomore Anabelle Sumera-Decoret as Celia, senior Brynn Lackey as Rosalind and sophomore Sam Olt as Touchstone perform on April 10 during a dress rehearsal in McCrary Theatre. William Shakespeare's "As You Like It" will have four performances from April 11 through April 13.

“A lot of theater makers approach Shakespeare like it’s like a sacred text,” Lackey said. “It’s really fun and unique to have an experience like this where we have the freedom and the creative liberty to throw in little ab libs and little lines here and there and make our show our own.”

“As You Like It” also gave Elon Performing Arts students the opportunity to act in a Shakespeare production for the first time, such as sophomore Parker Felumlee who plays Jaques. 

“I have never done a Shakespeare play before, so with this being my first one, it was pretty crazy,” Felumlee said. “Kevin was honestly pretty vague about it but it led us to this absolutely crazy, fantastic, magical product, and only Kevin could have done that with this weird adaptation.”

Felumlee also performs one of Shakespeare’s most notable monologues, “All the world’s a stage…” as Jaques, which he heavily prepared for when taking on this role. 

“That was a challenge, absolutely,” Felumlee said. “I looked at what Alan Rickman said about his experience playing Jaques at the Globe Theater and it really helped me find the character because he’s always described as melancholy, but that doesn’t really do you justice as an actor because he’s not just sad.”

In addition to the cast, the crew is incredibly excited to have the Elon community come and see “As You Like It.”

Stage manager Maria Angelos said they think audiences will be surprised and should expect the unexpected

“I think the audiences will be really surprised by the lighting and sound and makeup that you’re going to see in the show,” Angelos said. “It’s the last thing you’d expect to see when you come to see a Shakespeare show.”

“As You Like It” will be performed in McCrary Theater in the Center for the Arts on April 11 and April 12 at 7:30 p.m. and on April 13 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 or free with an Elon ID and can be purchased on Elon’s ticketing website.