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Shakespeare In The Streets Shakes Up 'As You Like It' By Crossing The River

September 3, 2019 Kathryn Bentley and Tom Ridgely
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

All the world’s a stage, Shakespeare instructed us in his beloved romantic comedy “As You Like It.” And in its new production of that very show, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis plans to put that to the test in both the streets of Pagedale, Missouri, and the farmland of Calhoun County, Illinois. Its remix of the classic play, titled “Love at the River’s Edge,” transports audience members across the Mississippi River to examine the urban and rural divide. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis executive producer Tom Ridgely discussed the new production along with its director, Kathryn Bentley.

“It’s unusual. This is a whole new ballgame for us, too,” Ridgely said. “But it all goes back to what Shakespeare in the Streets is all about, which is about trying to bring visibility to communities around St. Louis. How we can use theater to bring people together, to bring them across some of those boundaries they’re not used to crossing, and maybe have them listen to the stories of the people who live there, is what Shakespeare in the Streets is all about.”

To that end, Bentley explained, the production has worked closely with student performers from both Normandy High School, which is in north St. Louis County, and Brussels, Illinois, a rural village with a population of 141 people. And while Shakespeare’s comedies thrive on misunderstandings and confusion, Ridgely and Bentley said that in this case, new friendships were formed. “The coolest moment I’ve witnessed so far was when the students from the two communities came together and were in each other’s spaces,” Ridgely said.

Listen here:

As for the audience, the play begins in Pagedale. But after Act I, audience members will take the Golden Eagle Ferry across the river to Calhoun County, Illinois. “It’s actually in the script – ‘To Calhoun County we go,’” Bentley said, laughing. They’ll return at the show’s end.

“It’s been quite a logistical challenge, let’s say,” Bentley added. “I’ve been working on this since last summer. Since then, there have been some sleepless nights of, ‘How are we going to do this again?’”

Said Ridgely, “We hope that we’ve earned some credit with the folks who’ve come to other Shakespeare in the Streets, seen what it is, maybe already gone a little outside their comfort zones, and are willing to come along with us for this. … That’s what we’re asking people to do, is to come along on a journey with us — an artistic and emotional one, and also just a geographic one. Allow us to take you some place that you haven’t been before.” 

Related Event

What: “Love at the River’s Edge” 

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019

Where: The intersection of Page & Ferguson in St. Louis, MO 63133

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.