Tri-State Theater

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"As You Like It" Interview with Mike Murdock

   Just two days to the premiere (the Bard laughs at your talk of snow!) of Shakespeare’s As You Like It! 

   And we have more interviews to share - so let’s hear from the director of the play - the multi-talented Mike Murdock! 

Q: Tell us about As You Like It.

Mike: This is one of Shakespeare’s better known comedies, and one of the first to have a female character dress up like a man. Rosalind is banished from court by her uncle, Duke Frederick, who has usurped the throne from her father, his own brother, Duke Senior. Rosalind and Duke Frederick’s daughter, Celia, and the court jester Touchstone, go off on an adventure to the Forest of Arden to find Rosalind’s father.  Along the way, there are all sorts of appropriate (and inappropriate) comedic mishaps. Music, dancing, puppets, goats, giant trees, tiny sticks, love, lust and much, much more.

Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences?

Mike: Shakespeare is universal. The locales may be different. The clothes might be different.  The language might be more verbose, but, ultimately, the stories are the same. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Girl dresses up like man to go to the forest to find her lost father with her best friend and a fool with a puppet. Girl finds boy. Boy thinks girl is boy. Girl plays trick on boy to see if boy really loves girl. A different girl falls for girl dressed as boy. Original boy’s brother falls in love with original girl’s best friend. Fools falls in love with a goat-herder. The God of Marriage shows up and they have a dance about it. You know, just like real life.

Q: Tell us about your work on the show.

Mike: I’m the humble director of this incredible version of Shakespeare’s timeless classic, brought to beautiful life by one of the best theatre companies in the state. Super humble.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Mike: I’ve done a lot of theatre, both professionally and for free. I’ve also done a lot of Shakespeare across this fair globe of ours, and I have loved every minute of it.

Q: Tell us about the cast.

Mike: The cast is brilliant, funny, poignant, honest and so great to watch every night.  I can’t get enough.  My wife, Joanna Murdock, who I consider one of the very best actresses in the Tri-State (even before I married her, so it’s not just a husband doting on his wife – but I’m certainly doing that, too) plays Rosalind, switching seamlessly between tenderness and toughness, fragility and strength – it’s astounding to watch her work, and Kate Morris, another of my favorite females actors around these parts, plays Celia, finding the joy in the character, the fun, and at the same time, the anguish, loss and love. These two women are forces to be reckoned with, and seeing them finally work together is a dream come true for me. I love seeing them play with each other and find new things every night.  Great actors are so fun to watch.

   Speaking of great actors, Robert Hutchens as Jaques is doing a simply marvelous job as the melancholy lord who believes all the world is a stage. Jonathan Maynard plays Touchstone, the fool, with a mischievous and uninhibited fervor that I truly enjoy. John Campbell does double-duty as both brother Dukes, and his transformations are delicious. Michael Naglee is back in his element as a true Renaissance man, carrying the role of Orlando on his awesome shoulders as he fight for love and to find his place in this world. Simon Woods finds previously untapped sweetness and more in his star turn as Oliver, Orlando’s brother. Todd Green, Rick Walker, Cameron Knight and Dylan Clark all bring hilariously wonderful moments to this show. And let’s not forget all the people in the show that have never done Shakespeare before, or, at least, not with me: Becky McClelland (who built us a $%*#@!% AMAZING tree) is killing it as Le Beau, Kristina Richins is terrific as Amiens and sings beautifully with the incredibly talented duo of Ashby Foutch and Lara Donahoe (with some original music by Lara as well), Tyler Bradley nails Corin, Cyndi Mac Fuller has created some amazing props for us (GOATS, I SAY!) and is wonderful as Audrey, Andrew Surber is the perfect Hymen, God of Marriage, lyrically and poetically showing a wonderful mastery of the language of the show and Nora Ankrom is transcendent as Phebe, bringing another famous Shakespeare character and famous monologue to life in an exceptional and passionate way from the first time she steps on stage.

   This cast is simply incredible. I can’t say enough about them. And we got it up in like four weeks. So, try to catch up, literally everyone else.

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Mike: I love Shakespeare and I love doing new things at ARTS.  This show is both!

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Mike: There’s something for the whole family to enjoy. We’ve transformed the ballroom space into a forest (and the Duke’s Court). The costumes that Anna Baker and Becky McClelland built, mainly from scratch, are so @#%^$#@ good.  Everybody needs to see the show, so we can show you the power of community theatre and how you don’t need $100,000, rented sets and rented costumes in order to have an amazing show. The set is cool. Nathan Bradley's lights are good. Michael Sullivan's sound is good. Sometimes getting creative is better. Also, if you have $100,000, we’ll take that, too. Obviously. Don’t be a jerk.

Q: And how do you like it?

Mike: I like it so well. And so will you.

    Thanks, Mike!

   As You Like It by William Shakespeare will be presented at the ARTS Renaissance Ballroom at 900 8th Street in Huntington on Jan. 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the show only, and $30 for dinner and show - for dinner, you must make a reservation by calling 304-733-2787.

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