‘As You Like It’ Launches Montclair State’s ‘Unmasked!’ Series

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Published October 31, 2021
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The Montclarion
Trent Greenwell (center), a junior acting major who plays Touchstone, soars in front of the crowd to simulate his character skydiving, while carried by Elijah Davis (left) and Andrew Linden (right). Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Montclair State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance held a three-day run of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” from Oct. 28 to 30 at Memorial Auditorium, kicking off the academic year’s collection of 11 in-person, live student productions known as the “Unmasked!” series.

Directed by Avery Glymph, “As You Like It” is a comedy that incorporates gender-bending, adventurous elements as it tells the story of Rosalind, played by senior acting major Talia Wynzel, and how she and those around her develop their romantic lives in an unconventional setting.

Rosalind is joined by her cousin, Celia, played by senior acting major Alexis Farrell and court fool, Touchstone, played by junior acting major Trent Greenwell, when she flees from royal court after being banished by senior acting major Ethan Metz’s character, Duke Frederick.

Talia Wynzel and Jared Preston shine as the leads, Rosalind and Orlando, of "As You Like It." Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

Talia Wynzel and Jared Preston shine as the leads, Rosalind and Orlando, of “As You Like It.”
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Upon arriving at the Forest of Arden, Rosalind eventually crosses paths with the son of a well-known nobleman, Orlando, played by sophomore acting major Jared Preston, who she had recently fallen in love with at first sight prior to leaving home.

The cast of "As You Like It" in the beautiful set of the Forest of Arden. Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

The cast of “As You Like It” in the beautiful set of the Forest of Arden.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Production manager Peter Davis had the role of coordinating the work done by the show’s director, designers, managers, performers and technicians, as well as creating schedules and budgets. This position granted him insight into the distinctiveness of the performance.

“William Shakespeare wrote this play over 400 years ago,” Davis said. “And it has been presented [a] thousand times. Every one [of] those productions is unique. That is the beauty of Shakespeare.”

Celia, played by senior acting major Alexis Farrell, holds Rosalind (Wynzel) in her arms. Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

Celia, played by senior acting major Alexis Farrell, holds Rosalind (Wynzel) in her arms.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

What sets Montclair State’s rendition of “As You Like It” apart is it being the school’s first production performed for a live audience in nearly two years since before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This is an important aspect in the growth of theatre students, according to Davis.

“It is very fulfilling to see our students producing work in front of an audience again,” Davis said. “Live theatre is a unique experience that requires the presence of an audience, like the proverbial, ‘Tree falling in the forest.’ There are many components to the training of theatre artists, but it really needs to include the live performance experience.”

Sophomore Anthony Piccininni, playing Charles the Rib Crusher, shakes hands with frshman Allison Rosofsky, who plays Le Beau. Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

Sophomore Anthony Piccininni, playing Charles the Rib Crusher, shakes hands with freshman Allison Rosofsky, who plays Le Beau.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

With practices beginning immediately after parts were cast and much individual and collective effort being done to deepen understanding of the play, the students involved made the final production of two hours and 25 minutes, including intermission, a memorable one.

Each scene was vibrant and noteworthy in its own way whether it be simple but stunning set designs and lighting, live music being played on the guitar or the attention-demanding stage presence of the cast members.

Anna Moceri, a junior acting major who plays Amiens, plays the guitar beautifully on stage. Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

Anna Moceri, a junior acting major who plays Amiens, plays the guitar beautifully on stage.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Throughout the performance, those watching were alive with laughter from consistently hilarious exchanges between characters like Rosalind, Celia and audience-favorite, Touchstone. Comedy was the clear genre of “As You Like It,” as it used a mix of actors speaking directly to the audience, making quick, witty remarks and fully developed comedic scenes with the intent of providing viewers nothing but minutes of pure humor.

What seems to come naturally to the cast members is actually the product of intense personal work, according to Wynzel.

“We have to come up with backstory for our characters that is not written in the script and really mold our own personal version of the character throughout the story we are telling,” Wynzel said. “It happens so fast. Before we know it, we are in the theatre and all the elements, lights, sound, the set, costumes, come into play, and our characters really come to life.”

Trent Greenwell and Alexis Farrell play a hilarious duo as Touchstone and Celia. Photo courtesy of Avery Nixon

Trent Greenwell and Alexis Farrell play a hilarious duo as Touchstone and Celia.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

The culmination of these components ensured those in the audience walked away from “As You Like It” with a positive memory of their return to in-person performances.

Hunter Ayala, a junior business administration major, especially loved the closing number that drew the production to an end. A standout scene in a play of many unforgettable moments, the entire cast came together in a final, choreographed dance scene that highlighted the goal of “As You Like It,” to leave the audience with a fun experience.

“The dance number at the end came out of nowhere,” Ayala said. “I felt like it was very needed after very much speaking and acting and the intensive fight storyline of what was going to happen. That dance number at the end where everybody was able to come together was amazing.”

It wasn’t just the audience left with fluttering hearts after the curtain closed as Wynzel explains.

“This show was so beautiful,” Wynzel said. “From the set to the costumes, the sound and lighting, to the acting. We all came together and poured a little bit of our hearts onto the stage for everyone to see. I will never forget this show. Thank you to everyone [whose] heart has been left on that stage forever.”

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