Reminiscing on As You Like It
I have very fond memories associated with As You Like It, and the play has therefore wormed its way into being a comfort. As You Like It is not necessarily one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, despite its use of the same stratagems as other comedies. It is instead like a favorite sweater—known, unsurprising, yet satisfying. Lovers, escape, gender swapping, danger, friendship, and intrigue all participate in the story.
The first time I saw As You Like It was during undergrad in the winter in Boston. I went with a friend I had just made in class when we were both new to the area. Our schedules were such that we could not travel to the venue with each other, so we individually ventured on unknown bus lines to a then unknown part of the city. Winter in Boston tends to have a mind of its own, and it chose this evening to mess with us just enough. Bad weather and transit delays kept us from meeting at the agreed upon time, adding to some confusion about location. Eventually, after phone calls and a fair amount of walking, my friend and I found each other and could proceed to the venue. This also wasn’t as easy as it seemed and we traveled through what we later learned was a cemetery snowed over, but we arrived in the nick of time just before curtain. It was an intimate space with rectangular three-quarter thrust seating. A curtain of what looked like mylar ribbons stretched across the stage upstage, while mirrored pillars were scattered throughout the floor. During the play these were effective city or forest indicators as columns or trees respectively. What I remember most about the design was the use of metallic silver and mirrors, as well as manipulating images through the physical manipulation of these things. It was a fun show and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It wasn’t until we arrived at the bus stop that we realized the line had stopped running for the night. Hungry and a little annoyed, we gratefully requested an Uber. It was one of my first experiences with the service and a testament to both the weather and time of evening that we didn’t just walk to the nearest T station. Youth is resilient, but sometimes you just need to get home to shove the food you have hoarded in your room in your face before you begin the homework you put off in order to attend a show with your friend.
It wasn’t until after that experience that I spent time with the play in class. Instances like that where I get to see the show and experience it fresh for the first time without predispositions are rare, so I relish them. The class itself was mediocre aside from my personal interest in the subject matter. Its best quality was access to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s digital theatre, which I used to sate my theatrical and literary interest.
My other notable experience with As You Like It came on a weekday one October when I decided to treat myself to an early birthday present doing something I had always wanted to do. My work schedule for the day gave me the opportunity and a friend was kind enough to loan me her car, so on Friday the 13th just outside Newport, RI I went skydiving. It was an unreal and utterly ecstatic experience. I always wanted to do it, so I finally decided to just do it. Only one other person was skydiving that day as a present from his girlfriend. People thought it odd that I was alone, but I didn’t care. It was a glorious day with postcard weather. The instructor I jumped with pointed out multiple cities in the distance while we were in the air and played with the parachute so we spun around and swooped up and down. I watched our shadow on a cloud below us at one point as we passed through the center of a glory. I had a grin on my face that didn’t fade until well into the next week. The whole experience took far less time than I anticipated, which left me time to visit a couple nearby wineries. At the second I knew I needed to continue to enjoy the moment. There was plenty of time before I needed to be back. I therefore ordered a glass of wine and sat outside in an Adirondack chair facing the vines. As I drank in the beauty of everything, I pulled out the copy of As You Like It I had with me and started reading. It was not my intention to read the entire play, but before I knew it I had. I lost myself in the world of the play as I sipped my wine and it was fantastic. Eventually it was time for me to go and I traveled back to my friend’s, back to dinner and to work.
Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a solid work, yet it does not get the recognition of some other plays. It will always have a place in my heart, though, for the memories I have associated to it. Everyone needs those books that are old friends, and I expect this one will be with me for a while yet.