Lord knows, we've all seen productions of Shakespeare plays that were a shlep, but how about an As You Like It that's a hike?
On June 6, 13 and 20, Chicago's Equity Library Theatre will integrate William Shakespeare's woodland comedy with a 3-4 mile hike in the Cook County Forest Preserve. The show, complete with music by Douglas Post, will follow various trails surrounding the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center on South Willow Springs Road.
Acting and hiking in the show are Alan Ball, Joe Bell, Norm Boucher, Joe Bowen, Paul Connell, director/coordinator Frank Farrell, Michelle Goltzman, Richard Henzel, John Marshall, Helen Merrier, Nancy Nickel, Suzanne Petri, Lucinda Derwood and Luke Wilkins.
Audience members are asked to bring $5 (suggested admission), lunch, drinking water, long pants, insect repellant, and a good pair of hiking boots.
"We do the entire play," Farrell told Playbill On-Line (May 19). "We start the event underneath a picnic pavillion. Then the audience follows us to the back of a lodge. The actors are usually ahead of the audience, setting up ahead of time, so the audience doesn't actually see them until the scene starts." Farrell, who last fall staged the hike-style production in Michigan's Pigeon Creek County Park, noted that a forest makes an ideal backdrop for Shakespeare's play. "For example," he said, "there's a scene where Orlando plasters trees with love letters. Prior to the scene, audience members walk through a quarter mile of forest with love letters tacked to the trees."
The Chicago production is timed to coincide with National Trails Day (June 6), organized by the American Hiking Society. For reservations and information on "As You Hike It," call (773) 761-8621. The company is trying to keep the audience at a manageable number (around 50).
-- By David Lefkowitz