The cast of Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It” rehearses the opening of the play. The sequence incorporating candles memorializes lives lost to COVID-19, lives lost to violence and is a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The cast of Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It” rehearses the opening of the play. The sequence incorporating candles memorializes lives lost to COVID-19, lives lost to violence and is a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Outsider art: Outdoors location and caution bring Shakespeare to local stage

All the world’s a stage — especially Savikko Park’s Pioneer Pavilion.

All the world’s a stage — especially Savikko Park’s Pioneer Pavilion.

Theatre in the Rough will perform an open-air, seven-show run of Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It” under the park’s pavilion starting Thursday.

“We just needed to do a play,” said Aaron Elmore, director of the show and co-founder of the Shakespeare-loving theater company, in a video interview. “There was so much darkness there for a while. We just felt like we needed something that gathered us together, and got our brains thinking about something other than everything that’s terrible.”

A flier marks the site of Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It,” on July 21, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A flier marks the site of Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It,” on July 21, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Elmore said based on some limited research, it’s thought the performances will be some of the first live theater performed for an in-person audience in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic caused shutdowns throughout the nation.

“We’re pretty sure we’re one of the first places in the country to be doing this to actually put on a live performance in a sustainable, safe manner,” Elmore said. “That’s a treat. That we were able to find people willing to put in the time and effort.”

We read about a production in Virginia that claimed to be the first, but they’re opening on the 25th, and that’s three days after we are,” he added. “So, I think we’ll smoke ‘em.”

photos by Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire 
                                Blades collide as Orlando (Gabriel White) and Charles (Eddie Jones) sword fight during rehearsal for Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It” on July 21, 2020.

photos by Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire Blades collide as Orlando (Gabriel White) and Charles (Eddie Jones) sword fight during rehearsal for Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It” on July 21, 2020.

Precautions are planned to mitigate risk for actors and audiences alike. That means attendees will be seated at least 20 feet away from the stage, separated by household and placed about 10 feet apart. People are encouraged to bring chairs, umbrellas or even tents.

Those with tents will be asked to set up toward the back of the viewing area to avoid obstructing the view, Elmore said. Also, while the run takes place outdoors, Elmore said it’s best if audience members leave their pets at home.

[Stage is set for professional, nonprofit theater’s ongoing efforts]

In addition to distancing and an outside setting, all members of the audience and the cast will be required to wear face coverings. The stipulation predate’s City and Borough of Juneau’s ordinance requiring masks in indoor public spaces.

People are advised to bring their own masks, but Elmore said Theater in the Rough will try to have masks available if people do not bring their own. Sanitizer will also be made available.

Sanetizer, seen during a rehearsal, and mandatory masks are part of the risk-mitigation strategy for Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It.”

Sanetizer, seen during a rehearsal, and mandatory masks are part of the risk-mitigation strategy for Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It.”

He said the theater company was able to find some transparent face coverings for its actors that will allow the audience to see actors’ faces.

“That’s the good part about them,” Elmore said. “The bad part about them is the condensation that builds up on the inside does inevitably make them much more translucent than transparent.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on gatherings advises virtual-only activities present the lowest risk of COVID-19 spread. Smaller, outdoor in-person gatherings with at least six feet of spacing for separate households with people wearing face coverings fall into CDC’s second-lowest risk category.

It’s far from the only wrinkle created by performing a Shakespearean comedy in two acts outdoors in Juneau amid a pandemic.

Required masks, a public outdoor venue and a lack of an amplification system mean that pausing if an airplane passes by, setting up and taking down the set each night and the possibility of weather-related cancellations are all part of the plan. Elmore said the theater company’s Facebook page will be the best place to check for possible cancellations.

“Even to watch the show —it’s not going to be easy,” Elmore said. “But it’s going to be worth it.”

He said the cast and quality of the material are both selling points of the

“It’s a tremendously wonderful story, it’s a fantastic group of characters, it’s very, very funny,” Elmore said. “We have dances we have contrived to have everybody doing all this choral work, dance-wise. It’s a really, really good show.”

One of the show’s initial bugs has even grown into a feature.

“As You Like It” has been in the works for a while, Elmore said, and intended openings have been scrapped multiple times. That presented challenges, but it’s also given the show’s cast — Natalia Spengler, Molly York, Dan Wayne, Donnie Gott, Valeri Collins, Eddie Jones, Gabriel White, Connor Chaney, Elmore, Becky Orford, Katie Jensen, Maisy Messing and Travis Croteau —more time to inhabit their roles.

Duke Frederick (Dan Wayne) and Orlando (Gabriel White) exchange curt words during rehearsal.

Duke Frederick (Dan Wayne) and Orlando (Gabriel White) exchange curt words during rehearsal.

“The character relationships in the play are so solid,” Elmore said. “Our understanding of the play is so clear. This isn’t just a good-enough production. This production is very, very good.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

Know & Go

What: Theatre in the Rough’s production of “As You Like It”

When: Performances are scheduled for6:30 p.m., July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1. There will be a 2 p.m. show Aug. 2.

Where: Savikko Park, 101 Savikko Road, Douglas.

Admission: Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

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