William Shakespeare once wrote “All the world’s a stage” – though in the late 16th century he may not have envisioned his dramas performed in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.
This month the University of California, Merced is doing just that in its third annual Shakespeare production at Yosemite National Park.
UC Merced students, faculty and even park rangers will be taking to the forest for an adapted version of “As You Like It” designed to focus on environmental issues in honor of Earth Day – which, on April 22, falls just before the date believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday and almost a week before park performances are set to begin.
The play, originally set in the Forest of Arden, was adapted by English professors Katherine Steele Brokaw of UC Merced and Paul Prescott of the University of Warwick to include a modern setting, recent climate change research, musical interludes and a hip-hop sonnet recital.
“We’ve made our Arden Yosemite,” Brokaw said in an interview. “The people of the forest are people from Yosemite.”
Characters in the 1599 comedy will be modernized in keeping with the theme of ecology. Duke Frederick, for example, is transformed from a tyrannical usurper into the destructive CEO of an energy company, Brokaw said.
One of the main heroines, Audrey, is both cast as and played by a park ranger, Brokaw said.
“Shakespeare was himself very ecologically minded,” Brokaw said, emphasizing the focus on nature in his comedies and adding that he lived through early climate change during the Little Ice Age.
Lisa Wolpe, a stage actress who has performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, will be appearing as both Duke Frederick and the melancholy Jaques, who gives the famous monologue that begins “All the world’s a stage.”
Brokaw said the 90-minute play will largely stick to Shakespeare’s original language, with some deviation.
If you go
Where: In the Lower River Amphitheater in Yosemite National Park
When: There will be two performances daily on April 26, 27 and 28.
A full schedule of performances and further information can be found here.