Notes from the Forest: Into the scenes!

Every week, A.B.L.E. teaching artist Emma MacLean takes you behind the scenes for our teen ensembles’ spring production, As You Like It. Click here to catch up on our past installments, and read on to find out about Week 7 of rehearsals.


Spring break and 70 degree days have me feeling that the Forest of Arden is close at hand. And it is! Our play is less than a month away! (Have you gotten your tickets yet? *shameless plug*)


We finished casting and so were able to hit the ground running in week 7, with both the Friday and Monday ensembles diving deep into their scene and character work. As I’ve mentioned before, As You Like It is a daunting play, there are lots of moving parts. Adding to the confusion, for our version, each actor is playing at least 2 (sometimes as many as 4) different characters throughout the show.


The Friday ensemble started work on the prologue which will introduce the audience to the characters and basic plot. We broke into groups, with each group creating a different tableaux (or frozen stage picture) showing some of the key relationships in the play. Then we moved on to staging the big Orlando and Charles the Wrestler fight. Marissa will be puppeteering Charles, with the assistance of two facilitators, and Jack is playing Orlando. It was fun to see this moment, which we have been talking about for weeks, actually be realized. And we ended Friday’s rehearsal with the actors finding out their lines for the epilogue. Each actor will get one line in this speech and I look forward to bringing the two ensembles together.

The Friday ensemble lines up to read the Epilogue for the first time.

On Monday we started at the beginning of the play and rehearsed scenes 1 and 3. Sam R. was a terrifying Duke Frederick in his scene; he entered the stage and tossed Rosalind her bags and then banished her to the forest. Monday’s ensemble also got to practice their big puppet moment. This involves puppet Orlando fighting a lion to protect his brother Oliver. Lastly, we ended rehearsal with a bit of devised movement around the scene where Orlando is hanging up his terrible love poetry in the forest. There are dancing trees, flying birds and buzzing bees! We are looking forward to solidifying that blocking next week.

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The view from the stage at Chicago Shakes

The view from the stage at Chicago Shakes

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we had our first walkthrough of the theatre with the wonderful production team at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Our cast will perform in The Courtyard Theater, which is currently home to CST’s production of Hamlet. We have a big, beautiful thrust stage to play on. This weekend, our teaching artists and facilitators will have a special rehearsal onstage to figure out key blocking and other elements.

There is a moment in any rehearsal period when you see a show start to come together. At first it is hard to believe that these all the disparate parts will ever be whole, but then, as if by magic, it happens. I cannot wait to see more magic over the next few weeks, the Forest of Arden is coming to life! We hope you’ll join us on Monday May 20th at 7pm!

The main floor is filling up fast. Visit  chicagoshakes.com/able  to reserve your seats!

The main floor is filling up fast. Visit chicagoshakes.com/able to reserve your seats!