ITHACA, NY — The Ithaca College theater season opened with Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” which ran from Oct. 1 at the Main Stage Theatre until Oct. 10.

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Director Catherine Weidner lauded the cast for pulling together strong performances with only a month to prepare — the group began rehearsing on Aug. 31.

“We literally had about 28 rehearsals. I’m just so impressed with everyone’s work,” Weidner said.

For some of the actors, including Ithaca College senior Jordan Friend, such an accelerated rehearsal made the production feel more authentic.

Brianna Ford ’16 and Johnny Shea ’16 meet amongst the trees in Ithaca College Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Photos provided by Sheryl Sinkow.

“This took us closer to the rehearsal process they might have had at the time the play was written, because they would not have these long gestation periods. They would get the plays and they put them up,” Friend said.

“As You Like It” is a pastoral comedy that presents two contrasting worlds, the conservative royal court, where life is restricted by rules and societal paradigms, and the magical Forest of Arden, where time seems not to matter and the characters are free to pursue passion.

“Everyone needs a little time in the Forest of Arden,” Weidner said, noting that “The show is about the redemptive power of love, how you need to discover who you are before you can be with other people, and being open to love when it shows up, not when it suits your schedule.”

The production is the first the Weidner has directed since being named chair of the Department of Theatre Arts in 2013. Growing up in a small Illinois farming community, she always loved theatre but didn’t know it was an area of academic focus until she met an Ithaca College alumnus at a summer theatre in Indiana. She found herself drawn to the college, where she is now an associate professor.

In preparing As You Like It, Weidner encouraged the actors to explore new impulses and ideas, even moving a rehearsal outside into the woods behind Ithaca College’s Dillingham Center to get actors out of their comfort zone.

“[We] did the entire final scene outdoors, like it’s meant to be. It was glorious evening and it lifted everyone’s game. Actors were making entrances out of the bushes and we filled the area with song and laughter,” she recalled.

The actors said they found Weidner’s dynamic directorial style to be a good match for their characters’ own rapid evolutions over the course of the play.

“My character starts off as a very constricted serious character. She has a lot of love inside of her that she can’t show and little by little her love starts to come out. Her outfit also changes, becomes a little bit more free. At the end she can really show her true self,” said Jessica Hirschhorn said, who plays Madam LeBeau.

The characters’ evolutions, both physical and psychological, culminate in a coup de théâtre that we will not reveal for those who have not yet seen the play.

“I don’t want to spoil the end of the play for those who haven’t seen it, but I will say that [my character] has a treat of a moment,” Jordan Friend said about his character, Corin.

Performances will run in the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center on Oct. 7, 8 9 and 10 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. performance on October 10. Tickets are available online at ithaca.ticketforce.com or at the college’s box office in Dillingham Center for $10 to $16.

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