San Diego State University’s production of As You Like It takes the work of William Shakespeare and gives it an edgy twist. Adapting the original two and a half hour play, directors Dani Bedau and Chloé Verbestal have turned the text into a forty-five minute show, perfect for younger audiences. Shakespeare’s themes of love, power, self-discovery, and disguise (among others) present a comedic tale that audiences continue to relate to.
This production combines the language of 1590s Shakespeare with the aesthetic of 1990s grunge. While these may *seem* have to have nothing to do with each other, the show highlights the similarity of human experience between these two eras. Grunge sought to defy the power imbalance that gave outsized authority to corporations, as well as to emphasize acceptance and freedom. The characters in As You Like It face oppression from the authority figures surrounding them, threatening them with banishment and strict gender roles. Our characters defy these constraints in the Forest of Arden, where they try to determine who they are and what and with whom to surround themselves.
The show focuses on Rosalind, who has been banished from her court and thus her high-class life. As she leads her cousin, Celia, and the court’s fool, Touchstone, into the Forest of Arden, they take on grunge-inspired disguises which enable them to reveal to themselves who they truly are, much like the alternative grunge aesthetics of the 1990s did for so many.