CTC production staff ponders ‘As You Like It’ details


Newly appointed scenic charge artist Becky Holmes does scene work for Chautauqua Theater Company’s set of As You Like It on Monday afternoon. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

Jessie Cadle | Staff Writer

“We are cutting down trees today,” said Chautauqua Theater Company technical director Jonathan Zencheck at the final production meeting for this week’s production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

As You Like It is set both in a court and in the Forest of Arden, and the production staff — 20 or so individuals who work to produce CTC’s shows — sees the forest for the trees.

The trees Zencheck and the scenic department cut down for the set — with landowners’ permission — from streets in Chautauqua County have specific requirements. Two must be climbable, they must be of a certain height and heft, some sides must be smooth so costumes won’t rip, and the props department must be able to attach leaves to them later.

Scenery was one of five production elements discussed at the meeting. The others were lighting, sound, props and costume. Production manager Katie McCreary ran the meeting with director Jackson Gay and stage manager Bonnie Brady.

Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It previews at 8 p.m. Friday and opens at 6 p.m. Saturday in Bratton Theater and runs through Aug. 17. The twist on the classic is that As You Like It will be set in the 1930s, with a bar for a court that melds into the Forest of Arden.

Each production element is perfected to balance the era with the intent of Shakespeare’s work, a piece that revolves around love, disguise and ostracization.

McCreary called on each production head to discuss the updates in their department. Zencheck discussed the tree removal in the middle of the meeting, and Brady asked if it would be possible for the actress playing Rosalind, Sepideh Moafi, to swing from one of the tree branches to the ground.

Zencheck didn’t know if one branch would be strong enough to support the quick exit, so ideas were thrown out for a rod to be attached to the tree, disguised by a branch, to secure her safety.

It all depends on the trees. Discussion moved from the forest to the animals, on display on the bar walls.

Props master Vicki Ayers told the team that all the taxidermy was complete, including that of a doe. Deer appear again in the play when one is killed in the forest and dragged along the ground.

“We have antlers for it,” Ayers said. “The antlers look pretty gnarly.”

It was full-table discussion about whether the fake blood on the tarp holding the faux deer should look dried or wet as it is dragged across the stage. Wet, it was decided, but not actually wet, so as not to distress the floor.

The props department had also found — from numerous sources — leaves to be attached to the real trees on stage and some to be used for a leaf drop in one scene.

Leaves, it turns out, are incredibly expensive, Ayers said.

The discussion then turned to costumes, and there was some concern about one character’s pants, which are supposed to be jokingly pulled to the ground in one scene. Would the 1930s-style pants be big enough to slip down?

Then the group had to decide what underwear would be appropriate for the time period.

Each aspect of the show, from underwear to trees, was discussed at length to ensure all elements fit the production’s vision and to help tell the story.