Q&A with ‘As You Like It’ director
Sara Becker does the famous work of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” for her second production as a director at UH’s School of Theatre and Dance. She received her B.A. from Fordham University in NYC, and an MFA from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Becker has performed in many theaters throughout the nation including The Public Theatre of Maine and brings a great deal of expertise to the stage.
The Daily Cougar got a chance to sit down with Becker to discuss the play.
The Daily Cougar: What is your background like and when did you start directing?
Sara Becker: I started specializing in voice when I was a grad student, and during the summer I worked as an assistant vocal coach. My big love is helping actors use language to tell stories. When I hear a voice that is telling the story of someone’s heart, I really light up.
TDC: What do you like most about directing?
SB: Most of my professional work is as a vocal coach. As a coach, my primary focus is on the language of the play, and how it is getting communicated out to an audience. I love working as a director because I get to carry that care for the story out into the visual life. I have a great time collaborating with designers on lights, sets, music and costumes. Directing is like hosting a party.
TDC: Did you work on the script?
SB: “As You Like It” is written by William Shakespeare, but about a year ago, I worked with the dramaturges from the MA program to refine the script. We combed over many different editions of the play, creating our own script in the process.
TDC: What is the play about?
SB: This play is about how we try out new identities. You may have heard the famous speech, “all the world’s a stage” — the monologue talks about how in the course of our lives we play a lot of different roles. It can be easier to make changes when we are around people we don’t know, or on a vacation, or at a bar that we plan on never returning to.
A lot of the characters in “As You Like It” are out of their comfort zone — they have decided to run away, they have gotten kicked out of their home, they are up for a road trip. What I love about this is play is that it’s about freedom and a big life-changing journey.
TDC: How did you go about selecting your actors and actresses?
SB: We held auditions for the show back in November of last year. I asked people to come in with two monologues — one from Shakespeare, preferably — and to play some music. I teach Shakespeare and Voice in the theater department for both the graduates and undergraduates, so some of the students I already knew from that. I was really excited to see the level of skill and talent we have at UH, and I sometimes sit in rehearsal just so thankful that I found the exact right person for each role. You want to see that they have the chops to be able to handle the material, and then the imagination and spirit to also fully embody the story. We have both.
TDC: Does the whole cast and stage crews rehearse at the same time, or are rehearsals split into sections based on which characters are in what scenes?
SB: The rehearsal process officially starts with everyone at the table: actors, designers and directors. The first listen of a play is electric. You’re hearing all the exciting things you have read and imagined for however many months, you are seeing pictures of beautiful costumes, research images from designers, music playing, etc. After that we start digging into the small detail, and usually that is just the director and the actors. The designers and the directors will meet once a week to make sure we are on the same page, while stage managers coordinate all of the communication.
At a certain point we start putting the small pieces into larger chunks; the entire first act or the entire second act. Actors head off to fittings and dramaturgy may sit down with an actor to share research on the time period or history of the play. At some point we perform it just for the designers. Then we move into our theatre space; we work from then on making sure the story carries into a larger space. Then we add design elements, and then we add that very important final component: the audience.
Let me tell you, adding the audience is the best part.
“As You Like It” will be performed on April 19 through 28 at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. The play opens at 8 p.m. on April 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27. The play will also open at 2 p.m. on April 21 and 28.