Shakespeare highlighting romantic love is commonly known about as much as people have heard his line that all the world’s a stage.
But actor Graham Thomason asks that drama devotees, especially younger ones who may wonder of the Bard’s relevance for today, consider the legendary’s writer’s handling of differences among quarreling characters — such as those in Columbus North High School’s production of the comedy “As You Like It,” unfolding Friday through Sunday.
That’s the show, by the way, that highlights the ever-quoted all-the world’s-a-stage speech.
Thomason, who plays the male lead of Orlando, notes that characters in the forest of Arden behave dramatically differently than those in many of today’s angry Facebook faceoffs, for instance. Therein lies a invaluable lesson from some 400 years ago.
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“There are confrontations (in the play) between people — in some cases people playing devil’s advocate — usually between just two characters,” Thomason said. “In this script, there are no clear winners in these scenes. They finish talking, and they just walk away. There doesn’t have to be a loser or a winner of a debate.
“I think maybe these scenes can get people used to the idea of having a real civil discourse about things,” he added, “and used to the idea of learning to see a slightly different angle on your idea, without having necessarily changed it.”
The presentation focuses on a variety of characters fleeing the dangers of life in the city to head to the forest where they may find true love.
It also includes violinist Thomason’s original string quartet music written for four Shakespeare’s songs — sung by actresses such as Emily Sipes, as Lady Aimens — that some directors cut. The effort is part of his Thomason’s project.
He acknowledged that his dual role in the production “is crazy to think about.”
Lauren Frederick, cast as the female lead of Rosalind, recalled how Julie Hult, an eighth-grade teacher, made Shakespeare come alive for her as contemporary commentary and more by asking students to act out scenes.
“Sometimes understanding it also involves just diving right in to the text,” Frederick said.
Director John Johnson gushed over Frederick’s understanding of the work and this particular production.
“She has such an affinity for the character and for this language,” Johnson said. “And she’s such a great leader as an actress.”
Johnnson, leading his 100th show since the first production he oversaw in 1988 as a teen, mentioned that the work boasts a current feel, especially regarding romance. That’s simply one of many reasons why he says he falls in love with the work a bit more each time he deals with the script.
“The sentiments (of couples) haven’t changed,” Johnson said. “Just the language has.”
Johnson, never afraid over the years to change elements of a show to help it connect better with audiences, has grouped all the play’s scenes in the city together in Act II to smooth the story’s flow. But he acknowledged that Shakespeare hardly requires his help.
“Each time I read even part of it, or even if I’m just working with the two romantic leads, I realize that it is so magical,” Johnson said. “I hate to use that word, but it is magical. There’s always new depths and new understandings of feelings that I hadn’t really noticed the last time. And every time that happens, it’s with a new moment or a new line.”
What: Columbus North High School’s production of the William Shakespeare comedy “As You Like It.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The school’s Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus.
Orlando — Graham Thomason
Rosalind — Lauren Frederick
Oliver — Josh Johnson
Celia — Lily Johnson
Touchstone –Steven Walters
Madam/Adam — Molly Nelson
Duke — Frederick Sam
Lady Aimens — Emily Sipes
Duke Senior –Nathan Patton
Audrey — Maria Sanchez
Jaques — Ciaran Hill
Phoebe — Julia Iorio
Tickets: $5 in advance, available online at bcsc.k12.in.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2037, then click “seat yourself.” Also available at the door for $7.