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Arts & Life

Feeling Groovy At The Heart Of America Shakespeare Festival

This year's Heart of America Shakespeare Festival production of As You Like It, one of the Bard's romantic comedies, is set in 1967. And it's been at least 15 years since the festival presented a "full modern dress production," according to the festival's executive artistic director Sidonie Garrett who recalls it was Measure for Measure in 1998.

"I made a conscious decision because I felt it really enhanced this play," says Garrett, who's also directing the production. "It really helped to tell the story of the play to pick a time that people could relate to that was a time of repression and also a time of freedom. And that to me was in the '60s."

'Mad Men' suits and flower children

The costumes in As You Like It, designed by Mary Traylor, are inspired by the vivid styles of the 1960s, from "Mad Men"-style suits to Sonny and Cher, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.

"There’s a repression at the court, the court of Duke Frederick, who’s ousted his brother and sent him off into the Forest of Arden," says Garrett of the plot. "So you have the evil Duke and his people are all dressed in these tight black suits, and everything’s very regimented. And then we go to the forest of Arden, where we find the nice Duke and his men, dressed like Jim Morrison."

She adds, "And it takes you to a place of love, and peace, and freedom where everything is possible. It will be fun."

Musical interludes

"It is the most musical of Shakespeare’s plays," says Garrett, who estimates there are at least five live performance moments with music. "He (composer Greg Mackender) has written and composed all of that music to the words that Shakespeare gives us in the text. It’s lyrical, it helps tell the story.

"It’s really helped pull a thread through the whole idea of making this choice to set this in the summer of love."

Colors of love

Garrett says, at first, she didn't consider As You Like It, a pastoral comedy, her favorite Shakespeare play. She had fond memories of it, acting as assistant director for the festival's production in 2000 (directed by Mark Robbins). But now she says she's "grown to love it."

"I think people will laugh, I think they will feel joyful," she says. "I think they will see their own lives up there in some way, all these love relationships – four couples in love, or some variety thereof – you can see a lot of the colors of love, right before you, in a really fun and family way."

The Heart Of America Shakespeare Festival presents As You Like It, June 18 - July 7, 2013 at 8 pm, in Southmoreland Park, Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Oak Street, Kansas City, Mo.

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