Notes from the Forest: Who, What, HUH?

A.B.L.E. Teaching Artist Emma MacLean is back to share more about the world of our teen ensemble’s upcoming play, As You Like It

Into the forest we go…

Last week, I hopefully convinced you of why one does As You Like It. This week, I am here to try to explain the who, what, when, where and how. That is to say: THE PLOT. If you like complicated stories with mistaken identities, love at first sight and lots of family drama, then have I got the play for you! I am hopeful that by the end of this post, the plot will be clear…or at the very least you can see the forest through the trees….

Let’s start with the characters.

There are 14 characters in our version of As You Like It, arranged arranged in a handy Venn diagram below:

Characters fall into the following categories:

  • The Court (Duke Frederick, Le Beau, Charles the Wrestler, Touchstone)

  • The Forest (Duke Senior, Jacques, Corin, Phebe, Silvius)

  • The De Boys Farm: (Oliver, Adam, Orlando)

Rosalind and Celia are special in that they live in the court, then the flee to the forest and change their names. Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede. And Celia disguises herself as a peasant woman named Aliena.

An unabridged version of As You Like It would take almost 4 hours to stage! A.B.L.E.’s adaptation has a variety of cuts, both to simplify the story, and to shave down the runtime. If you’re already familiar with this story, you might notice Amiens, Audrey, Olivier Marquis, and Hymen the Goddess of Marriage have gone missing. Apologies, Mr. Shakespeare. It had to be done!

And now…a very shortened synopsis:

Long, long ago in France there were two brothers Duke Frederick and Duke Senior. Both men had daughters: Duke Senior’s daughter Rosalind, and Duke Frederick’s Celia. The girls were as close as sisters, but the brothers not so much. Duke Frederick, the current ruler, exiled his brother to the Forest of Arden.

They are not the only two warring brothers in this story. Oliver and Orlando, two sons of the late Sir Rowland de Boys have their own trouble. Oliver, the older brother, will not let his younger brother go to school. Orlando challenges Duke Frederick’s best fighter, Charles the Wrestler, to a wrestling match hoping to win fame and fortune. Orlando wins the fight, but loses the Duke’s favor, and is banished from the court. This leads Orlando, with his trusty friend Adam, to journey off to the Forest of Arden.

Duke Frederick continues on his banishing rampage and sends Rosalind out of the court as well. Celia cannot bare to be separated from her best friend and decides to go with her. Rosalind, Celia and their clown friend Touchstone decide their only choice is to head to the Forest of Arden. But it is not safe to journey as themselves. Rosalind disguises herself a man called Ganymede. Celia disguises herself as a peasant woman called Aliena. And off they go…

The forest has plenty of its own drama. Duke Senior, the banished brother from the very beginning of the play, has started his own ragtag forest court. Corin the shepherd is just trying to mind his own business. Silvius, a shepherd, is madly in love with Phebe a shepherdess. But she doesn’t love him back. Jaques a philosopher, loves melancholy, and it loves him back.

Now here’s where it really gets confusing. Rosalind, dressed up as the man Ganymede, meets Orlando with whom she is in love. They play a game where Rosalind, a woman, pretending to be the man Ganymede, will pretend to be the woman Rosalind so Orlando can woo her.  Confused yet? Oh, and Phebe from earlier has fallen in love with Ganymede because she doesn’t know that “he” is really Rosalind the whole time.

In the end, Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, brings everyone together: Duke Senior, her father; Orlando, her lover; Silvius and Phebe, the forest lovers; Touchstone, the clown; and Celia and Oliver (who have fallen in love at first sight during a forest mishap earlier). She reveals her true self and is married to Orlando. In fact, all three couples get married in a big wedding, and there is much dancing and merriment!

So that is the play in brief (if you can call 6 paragraphs brief), but there is plenty I didn’t get to talk about: terrible love poems strung up on trees, beautiful monologues about the stages in a person’s life, and a lion attack. Not to mention that the A.B.L.E. show will have puppets and dancing and puffy Elizabethan pants.

I promise, as long as you remember that all will work out in the end, you’ll be fine.


Our ensembles have orientation this week, and we officially start rehearsals next Friday, so stay tuned for more Notes from the Forest!