Theatre As You Like It

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Brian Ressler as Andre and Judy Shaw as Touchstone in ‘As You Like It’; photo: Jene Shaw

Free Shakespeare in historic South Park 

This early 1623 classic is full of well-known quotes such as “too much of a good thing,” wrong assumptions, gender reversals, love, and hate — a comedy reflective of human nature as we continue to know it.

“As You Like It” has often been altered in place and era; here, Director Susan Roberts is setting the time frame to pre-World War I with new opportunities of interpretation and costuming. The Forest of Arden has become Ardennes. Some characters conventionally male are now female. The most obvious is Touchstone, the court jester, played by Judy Shaw, who says, “It’s been an interesting journey to transform the role from a clown to a female 1920s entertainer with new mannerisms.”

The basic story involves two warring brothers and the many inhabitants of their opposing dukedoms. Each has a daughter who eventually has to assume a disguise and flee, confused in love and ultimately happily resolved when all the deceptions are disclosed.

It all becomes more understandable when you see the characters and follow them through their journeys, clarifying the complicated plot. Some of the roles and their actors: Rosalind, a daughter, played by Jene Shaw; Celia, her cousin, played by Mandy Goodwin; their fathers are Duke Senior played by Mark Reuter and Duke Frederick played by Ray Geiger. The boyfriends are Scott Randolph as Orlando and Brett Shane Cooley as Oliver.

Co-Producers Phyllis Tonne and Galen Wilson, who also plays the old servant Adam, are proud of their increasing neighborhood involvement in this eighth season.

The free performances, 8 p.m. Sept. 9-11, take place at the South Park Green with entrance on Hickory Street, parking on Hickory, Emerson School, and Hope Lutheran Church, site of plan B if it rains. Donations are welcomed and chairs, blankets, and bug spray are encouraged.

Sweeney Todd, that demon, lurks at Human Race Theatre 

The Human Race always does a “meet and greet” when rehearsals are in the early stages to introduce the work of the technical designers, a look at the work that happens before the actors take the stage. Seldom publicized, designers are used to working intensely, researching, sketching, thinking, imagining, coordinating, settling on final choices, and bringing designs to life.

Few are used to speaking in public, but over time, their presentations have become, well, theatrical and stage-worthy.

Set Designer Dan Gray began to describe the partially completed set behind him, while expressing his reluctance to be speaking. He gestured, he explained, he showed his research photos of the late 19th century London, Sweeney Todd’s era. He fairly danced demonstrating the challenges of fitting this multi-scene show into the Loft’s fairly small space, compared to the proscenium stage of the Victoria where the Race did Sweeney years ago. The group attending this free event followed his every word and move, as if it might be part of a show.

Janet Powell, the costumer, had a hen-brown dress on a form and a grocery shopping cart full of accessories. Some of the cast play multiple parts, and she demonstrated how adding a shawl or a sash will define different classes and activities – garden party or funeral.

Imagine property master Heather Powell hard at work in her kitchen, creating the apocryphal meat pies, experimenting with size and durability. She makes the creation of stage blood sound ordinary. You might wonder if she makes dinner in those same containers. Shopping on the internet for a barber’s razor that would do no harm was a challenge, and drawing one across her own throat brought a gasp from the audience. However, it may be her history of buying metal handcuffs from Hustler that skews her profile on social media.

Sound Designer Jay Brunner loves to create, rather than purchase, his effects. He needed something that would best be simulated by the thumps of flesh echoing against metal. With his portable recorder safely placed and on, he tried throwing himself against the Loft’s old freight elevator. Hmm. He emerged from the back door of the theatre into the ally and saw the metal dumpster. Even better. He spun the story: “I tried jumping in and wildly banging myself around…but then I saw a police car driving into the alley. I was terrified.” Listeners could feel it and imagine the contortions of attempting a sane explanation. Brunner somehow made his activity understandable, and the policeman returned to his cruiser, no ticket issued. Phew. Nor did Brunner think to offer a complimentary play ticket. But the car was backing up. “Man, you have a weird job,” the policeman says.

Brunner may have a job he loves, but the stage is missing a delightful comedian. Knowing the result of the enthusiastic work of all the designers increases anticipation for the production.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs Sept. 8 – Oct. 2 at the Human Race Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Suite 300 in Dayton. For more tickets and more information, please call 937.228.3630 or visit

Momma Knows a lot but Grandma
Knows Everything 

Support our local new creation. Cortez Jackson wrote and produced this musical about a dysfunctional family, a story heart-touching and real – full of secrets, anger, lies, and, most of all, love. And the singing is phenomenal!

Catch Momma Knows a lot but Grandma Knows Everything 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at Shiloh Church, 5300 Philadelphia Dr. in Dayton. General admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, please call 937.270.9119.

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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