February 14, 2000
Volume 52, No. 21
Black Rose to be clipped after spring plays
By Deb Hammacher
Three years ago Theater Studies built a replica Elizabethan theater to see what role physical space played in the creation and success of work by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
The Black Rose--which took its name from the Rose and Blackfriars theaters after which it was patterned--was to be in place only for that semester but was such a hit with audiences, artists and the national media that it still stands.
The investigation of the Black Rose comes to a close, however, with its final full production, Shakespeare's As You Like It, running Feb. 18-March 4. But to celebrate what Theater Emory has learned from the project, two nights of reminiscences and snippets from Black Rose performances will be shared during a "swan song," Feb. 22-23. These will include scenes from some of the first productions; actors Anna Bahney and Scott Higgs will return from New York and Chicago to reprise roles in The White Devil and The Tempest, respectively.
In As You Like It, director Janice Akers sought to capture the majesty and pageantry of English theater during the Elizabethan court. The play features two of Shakespeare's most popular female heroines--Celia and Rosalind--and, appropriate for the last performance in the Black Rose, was written in the midst of a crisis over theater space for Shakespeare's company.
As You Like It emerged from desperate days for Shakespeare and his company, the Chamberlain's Men, according to Michael Evenden, dramaturg for the production. The company was struggling to find a new home after being voted out of their theater in the upscale Blackfriars section of London, and Will Kempe, the clown actor for whom Shakespeare is said to have written the role of Falstaff, left the company.
The marks of these disruptions are evident throughout As You Like It. A tightly structured first act, in which verbal wit lightens a sinister political tale of betrayal, gives way in the second act to a world of wandering, exploration and play. It is as if the rudiments of theater have to be rediscovered--role-playing, improvisation, elaboration of conventional themes and characters, and discovering a clown who can think and speak like an educated man. "All those things echo the wanderings of the Chamberlain's Men as they sought to remake their situation," Evenden said.
Bill Moore, Theater Emory's technical director, did the set design for the production, and Leslie Taylor created lush period costumes in keeping with the Elizabethan era. Judy Zanotti is the lighting designer and sound consultant, and Charles Spenser is the composer and musical director.
The ensemble cast includes professional and student actors lead by Brittany Paige as Celia, Katy Carkuff as Rosalind, John Ammerman as Touchstone the jester, Tim McDonough as Jacques, Stuart Ambrose and Allen Read as Orlando and Oliver de Boys, and Harrison Long as the Duke.
Performance times for As You Like It are 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 18; 8 p.m. on Feb. 19, 2426 and March 14; and 3 p.m. on Feb. 20, 27 and March 4. Tickets are $6 for students, $10 for seniors, staff and faculty, and $14 general admission.
The Black Rose "swan song" will be at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 2223, and is free and open to the public. For more information or to order tickets, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050.