Interview: Director LYNNEA BENSON On Her New Production of "As You Like It"
I recently interviewed Lynnea Benson, the director of As You Like It at Theatre 71, produced by the critically acclaimed and revolutionary Shakesphere Ensemble Frog & Peach Theatre Company. As You Like It began previews on September 30 and runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays through October 23rd.
What can the audience expect from this version of As You Like It?
Audiences can expect an entertaining, tuneful comedy with funny, realistic characters. The family conflicts are probably familiar to everyone. As You Like It also says a lot about love, isolation, and reunion. With it being a musical, are the songs all original, or are they taken from other songs or Shakespeare's work?
The music is by Ted Zurkowski of the band Honey West. Ted is also a Frog & Peach co-founder, a frequent composer for our productions, and a terrific actor. Lyrics are of course by Mr. Shakespeare himself. What have you learned about yourself as a director during this process? Have you approached this different then your other pieces you’ve worked on?
As a director, I’ve had the privilege of working with many of the actors featured in As You Like It for years. All through the pandemic, many helped create the hit comedy series TINKERBELL ONLINE, which has had over a million views. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5tEiRvnYT0J3DSa-Kx_4OA We stayed sane, even had a lot of fun, but I didn’t realize how much I missed them til we got into an actual room together. I can only speak for myself; it was very moving to be with them. What do you hope audiences can take away from this production?
The thing about a Frog & Peach show-tragedy, comedy, or history- the thing people always mention is the love & joy that radiates from our stage. It’s a very welcoming place, so it’s no surprise we serve so many people you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in an audience for Shakespeare-younger, less affluent; people who don’t speak English as their 1st language-basically, anyone who may feel priced out of the cultural conversation. I can’t take credit for all that love, but with As You Like It, I’ve come to realize how precious it is. I think I’m a lot more humble and grateful. In doing this show, what have you learned about the piece that you didn’t know before doing this version? I feel like there is something new you can constantly learn from Shakespeare.
This is only our 3rd production of AS YOU LIKE IT since 2009. I’m ecstatic we were able to talk two terrific women (Vivien Landau & Ange Berneau) into taking traditionally male roles (Duke Senior & Duke Frederick). Warring sisters is a lot more common than most people want to accept. The honesty and openness these two performers bring to their work helped make it a perfect, logical fit with the language and story. I suspected it would! But still, it surprised me. And I guarantee the average viewer would never realize the switch. I wish more contemporary writers would explore the darker aspects of the relationships many sisters experience. For tickets and to learn to more about the show visit https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/as-you-like-it-the-frog-peach-theatre-1070409