The University of Minnesota, Morris's Black Box Theatre is the site for William Shakespeare's classic comedy As You Like It - with a contemporary "green" twist. The production crew's goal is to be 100-percent eco-friendly. Transformed "trash" has become the set, the costumes, and an artistic reflection of a campus committed to waste reduction, recycling, and energy self-sufficiency.
As You Like It was chosen for the spring 2010 production because the play lends itself so well to the importance of interacting with and concern about the environment.
"Its plot largely centers on city people being forced to return to Nature by living and surviving in the country," says Ray Schultz, associate professor of theatre arts and director. "I definitely thought that particular theme resonated with UMM's green initiatives. The eco-friendly production idea came as a way for me as a director and theatre as a discipline to consciously plug into and advance UMM's interest and commitment to environmental issues."
The production concretely demonstrates "a return to Nature" and environmental sensitivities by transforming ordinarily expendable "trash" into costumes and sets. Schultz was inspired to take this artistic route when he served as a faculty judge at last year's "Fashion Trashion" Studio Art show.
"The students' work was highly creative. The clothes were inventive, eco-friendly and, in many cases, really beautiful in design and construction," says Schultz. "It got me thinking that it could be both highly creative and eco-friendly to costume a theatrical production in this way. I also thought that because of the theme I wanted to emphasize in As You Like It, this was a perfect opportunity to try it. So after a few talks with Jess Larson, associate professor of studio art, who agreed to collaborate by heading the costume design team comprised of theatre and studio art students, the concept was born."
Ultimately, the unusual method of costuming lifted rags to riches, the ordinary to extraordinary.
"We artfully elevated everyday, discarded objects like old jeans, bottle tops, cassette tapes, and the like, and transformed them into something else," says Schultz.
And, the set crew constructed a world made out of entirely recycled or reclaimed materials. Jason Rasinowich, technical director, serves as set designer for As You Like It. His work continues the comedic theme into the set landscape while preserving the Elizabethan silhouette and thrust stage, staples of Shakespearean times.
As You Like It runs through Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m.with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre, Humanities Fine Arts, on the Morris campus. A special high school matinee is scheduled for April 27 at 10:30 a.m.
For more information, advance ticket sales, or to inquire about high school matinee performances, please call the Theatre Box Office at 320-589-6249.