He has staged the comedy before, 20 years ago, while artistic director of Hartford Stage. And his Jacques, veteran classical actor Brian Bedford, played that plum role a quarter century ago in Stratford—Ontario. But both men found reason enough in Shakespeare's test to happily revisit the work. Lamos spoke to Playbill.com about his experience taking the "female Hamlet" (better known as the play's cross-dressing heroine, Rosalind) deep into the forest of Arden once again.
Playbill.com: Have you ever staged As You Like It before?
Mark Lamos: Yes, about 20 years ago at Hartford Stage.
Playbill.com: What made you want to return to it?
ML: When [former Public Theater producer] George Wolfe called me about it, it was one of a short list of plays we agreed would be fun to explore. The first time I directed it, I felt I didn't quite get it all. I wanted to have a chance to do it again.
Playbill.com: What aspect of the play did you feel you had missed?
ML: The first time I did it was much more conceptual. I remember feeling while we working on it that it was trying to break the bonds of the concept and just breathe and be as simple as it is. So, it was a question of getting back to that.
Playbill.com: Your set, a map of the cosmos, seems to be conceptual, though.
ML: [Laughs] Yes! The set does have a beautiful, conceptual feel to it. The set is based on a celestial map of the period, with constellations. Almost every Shakespeare play is a microcosm of the cosmos. He does make a world of each play and the world completes itself at the end of each play. Particularly in the comedies. Playbill.com: The play does not seem to be done as much as some other Shakespeare comedies. There hasn't been a major New York staging of As You Like It in some time, whereas there have been three or four Twelfth Nights.
ML: Yeah, I guess you're right. Viola [the heroine in Twelfth Night] is a great role, but Rosalind is really the greatest of the female roles in Shakespeare, I think. I just finished doing a production of Romeo and Juliet, which is certainly one of the most exacting parts for a female. But Rosalind's palate has to be so broad and so filled with both nuance and bold color and great depths of feeling and fantastic sense of comedy. It's sometimes called the female Hamlet.
Playbill.com: How was Lynn Collins, who is playing Rosalind, brought to your attention for the role?
ML: My partner saw her in the film "The Merchant of Venice" [in which Collins played Portia] quite by chance and came home raving about this actress. He kept exhorting me to see the movie, but I was busy. That was shortly before George Wolfe called about this. We were putting together a short list for Rosalind and she was on it. I asked her people to send me some scenes from the movie. We met and talked.
Playbill.com: Are there an unusual directorial touches you're bringing to the text this time around?
ML: I feel we've unlocked the beauty and comedy of the play. It's a very gentle play. One of the challenges of the play really is that its narrative drive all but stops an hour into it. The story actually is held in abeyance once we get to the forest of Arden. You're dealing with, instead of an ongoing narrative, a series on contrasting scenes about love and imagination and stretching your belief to accept the impossible.