“Can one desire too much of a good thing?” ~Shakespeare
BUSAN, South Korea – We might mull over this question ourselves today, but William Shakespeare first posed it to Elizabethan theatre-goers over four hundred years ago in his romantic pastoral comedy, As You Like It. For two weekends, Shakespeare in Busan will provide a very good thing to the Busan community as it presents with open-air performances of the Bard’s comedy at the picturesque Dalmaji outdoor amphitheater.
As You Like It highlights romantic love, the contrast between country and courtly life, and family dynamics. Audiences will be treated with cross-dressing characters, a wrestling sequence, and four separate couples finding love. It is both a pastoral play itself and a satire on the idolization of country life popular in the centuries leading up to Shakespeare’s writing.
Even for those uncomfortable with the Old World wordiness of Shakespeare’s work, this company’s staging of As You Like It uses physicality to remain engaging and humorous. “It’s a light play about love and frolicking in the forest. You don’t have to look for a particular deeper meaning,” says Gina Hitchcock, a community theatre veteran who plays Audrey, a simple-minded country girl. Mary Rose Luksha, playing Celia, adds, “There’s a lot of running around, slapstick, and watching people rolling around or falling. It’s for anybody.”
Mary Rose Luksha (Celia), Samantha Tucker Iacovetto (Rosalind) and Ian McKinney (Touchstone) rehearsing Shakespeare's "As You Like It"
That’s not to say that the show is without substance. Perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most well-known monologues is delivered by Jacques, played by Michael Joplin. The soliloquy, which begins, “All the world's a stage/ and all the men and women merely players,” lists seven phases of human life.
One of the production’s largest roles is Rosalind, who has more lines than any other female Shakespeare character. “Almost all actresses want the chance to play Rosalind,” comments Sam Tucker Iacovetto, who won the honorific for this production. “She’s kind of a roller coaster because she’s split between telling other people why they’re silly for being in love and being extremely in love with this guy she barely knows.”
The show features a spirited nineteen-member cast that includes all experience levels from novice to professional actors, many of whom have acted in the Bard’s dramas before. Several familiar faces from past Busan expat productions, including Busan Night Live, The Vagina Monologues, and last year’s Shakespeare in Busan production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will reappear.
One barrier the cast has overcome is the inaccessibility of rehearsal areas spacious enough for the entire group. Rehearsals were often held on a rooftop, where the players had to work around yellow dust and so-called radioactive rain. Despite these nontraditional circumstances, they’re ready to deliver an energetic and entertaining performance.
As You Like It marks the third production directed by Jennifer Howell, who chose this Shakespearean comedy in part because of the prevalence of female characters. Howell became interested in Shakespeare at age five, when she saw the first play she can remember, an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “There’s a magic in it,” she says of seeing Shakespeare outdoors.
Rehearsal at Dalmaji Ampitheater on Dalmaji Hill in Haeundae
As You Like It will be presented four times: Saturday, May 28th at 5:15 p.m; Sunday, May 29th @ 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 4th @ 3:30 p.m.; and Sunday, June 5th @ 3:30 p.m. The show will last approximately two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission. Large crowds are expected, so arrive early for the best seating. In case of inclement weather, check the Facebook event pages for possible cancellation details. But in the case of light rain, the show will go on.
Admission is free. Because the production will take place outdoors, spectators are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy during the show. Mats and lawn chairs are also suggested.
Taxi Directions to Dalmaji Amphitheater: From Haeundae, Jung-dong, or Jangsan subway station, ask your taxi driver for Dalmaji Alexander Restaurant. The entrance to the amphitheater is across the street from the restaurant. Walk through the trees down the wooden walkway to the amphitheater. If the taxi driver does not know Alexander Restaurant, ask for Haewoljeong (the moon-viewing pavilion). The amphitheater is a 5-10 minute walk further.