Hudson Reed’s Shakespeare in the Park celebrates 10 years with ‘As You Like It’ | PostIndependent.com

Hudson Reed’s Shakespeare in the Park celebrates 10 years with ‘As You Like It’

Andrew Travers
atravers@aspentimes.com
The Hudson Reed Ensemble’s free Shakespeare in the Park series returns Aug. 19 with “As You Like It.”
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

If You Go …

What: ‘As You Like It,’ presented by Hudson Reed Ensemble

Where: Galena Plaza

When: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays through Sept. 4, 5:30 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: www.hudsonreedensemble.org; 970-319-6867

The bard is back at the renovated Galena Plaza.

After a two-year hiatus from its traditional home, the Hudson Reed Ensemble’s Shakespeare in the Park series will returns to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a free three-week run of “As You Like It.”

By its most recent Shakespeare run in Galena Plaza – “Romeo and Juliet” in 2013 – the condensed and creatively staged Hudson Reed productions had grown into a beloved late summer Aspen tradition. Nearly 1,200 people attended the 2013 run.

As has become Hudson Reed’s tradition, this “As You Like It” is decidedly non-traditional. The costume choices play up the fantastical elements of the gender-bending comedy, imagining Duke Frederick as a goth and placing several characters in Amish garb. The soundtrack uses contemporary pop music to set the mood, with 12 songs ranging from Joe Cocker’s “Come Together” to Edith Piaf’s “Hymne” to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease.” There are some choreographed dance pieces to match.

“For Shakespeare purists it might be iffy,” said director Kent Reed. “But it’s for the general public and that’s why we’ve had 10 years of success.”

The cast is made up largely of newcomers to Shakespeare in the Park (Gerald DeLisser is the only Hudson Reed regular in the play). Sheri Brinker plays Jacques, who is reimagined as a woman for Reed’s version, and the nine-actor ensemble includes high schoolers Emily Henley and Eli Pettet. Three actors are returning from Hudson Reed’s well-received spring production of “Bus Stop.”

“It’s really been fun working with these guys,” Reed said toward the tail end of the six-week rehearsal period. “And it’s exciting when there’s this new talent.”

The condensed version of the Shakespearean comedy is expected to run about 80 minutes. But the complex, convoluted plot of Rosalind and Orlando’s romance in the Forest of Arden was challenging to trim and keep coherent, said Reed.

“This is one of the most difficult cuts that I’ve made,” he said. “What we try to do is tell the story with the main characters, so that you know what’s going on.”

The renovated Galena Plaza, which doesn’t include seating or landscaping as it had in the past, provided new challenges for the troupe.

“I looked at it and said, ‘I don’t know, maybe we should go back to the old powerhouse like we did last summer,’” Reed, referring to the 2015 production of Todd Hartley’s “The Generations of Tantalus.” “Then I thought, ‘Well, maybe we could make something of this.’”

Reed and his crew have ended up producing more of a set than years past in the Shakespeare series, planting tubes in the lawn to ground fabric backdrops – 13 feet high, 36 feet across – and setting up three tents.

For seating, they’ll have about 80 chairs set up (though patrons are welcome to bring their own chairs and there will be a designated area for picnic blankets).

The show will go on, rain or shine, Fridays through Sundays, from Aug. 19 to Sept. 4. Late summer storms have been known to steal the show from time to time. The 2013 production of “Romeo and Juliet,” for instance, was plagued by a particularly tempestuous August.

“It was a knuckle-biter,” laughed Reed.