Cutting Shakespeare is a delicate business. Psych! It’s the opposite of delicate! Shakespeare purists, avert your eyes, because you won’t like what you’re about to read. The truth is, cutting Shakespeare for a 21st century sensibility is rough, irreverent, and one of the most fun things ever.
The titles of my four previous adaptations, Midsummer, 12th Night, Much Ado, and Shrew, epitomize the way I cut and adapt Shakespeare plays. Here are some Rules that I apply both to adapting a text, and titling the adaptation:
1) The adaptation should, of course, be shorter than the original play. So too the title of the adaptation wants to be shorter than the original title. That way it’s clear to everyone involved that I’m not claiming to have created a purist-friendly production.
2) The adaptation should modernize, highlight, and clarify the central idea(s) of the original. As should the title. For an example, my version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was much more about the feeling of youth in the middle of summer, than nighttime or dreams. As such, simply Midsummer became the title. Besides, we all know that one-word titles were all the rage in 2009. Duh!
3) The adaptation should use language that is almost exclusively from the original text. Shakespeare got it right when it came to imagery, rhetoric, and wordplay. Why mess up a good thing? Believe you me, the day I read the work of a dramatist with greater command of the English language than Shakespeare, I’ll leave the Bard behind. For now, it’s all you, Will. And the same thing goes for titles. Sure, I could have changed Much Ado About Nothing to Fit In Or Else, but therein lies the reason I’m more of a director than a writer...
…which brings me to As You Like It. How by gog’s wounds can you cut those four little words into one, two, or three little words, and still have them make any Jove-damned sense. ”You Like It” sounds too tentative, or like something a caveman would say. “As You Like”, “As You”, and “As” are out because they’re stupid. So it looks like we’re left with “Like It” or “Like” which both suggest that this production is going to be about Facebook. And mark my words, this production is NOT going to be about Facebook.
Besides, “As You Like It” perfectly encapsulates what I think the play is about: 1) What would a world look like in which anyone could love anyone they like, in whatever way they like? 2) How can we unite the freedom of that world with the social order of our own?, and 3) How can we as artists create a theatrical event that anyone can engage with in any way they like?
I guess I’m going to have to throw my “Rules” out the window. It looks like there are no rules to adapting Shakespeare. And just between you and me, that’s exactly the way I Like It.
As to my version of As You Like It, the text is ready to be read, and read it will be, this Sunday evening, by a fabulously generous group of actors. I can’t wait to hear what happens when, for example, Jacques Freydont (Baptista from Shrew) reads for both of the benevolent, and malevolent Duke Brothers. I can’t wait to hear what happens when Charles the Wrestler becomes Charles the Untamable Lion, and when Jaques, Amiens, and Corin become a three-man bluegrass band. Check back in next week to see how the read-through went!
Audition and Performance information coming soon.