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Shakespeare coming to a park near you

Alyssa Jackson
505-5438/@AlyssaJacksonYD
  • DreamWrights' Theater Under the Trees adds a modern twist to "As You Like It" by Shakespeare
  • The shows are free to the public but donations are accepted

Yorkers can watch a modern take on Shakespeare's "As You Like It" thanks to Theater Under the Trees, which begins July 22 and continues until July 31, with a performance each night at a different York County park.

"As You Like It" follows banished cousins Rosalind and Celia, who travel to Arden in boyish disguises and educate a young suitor, Orlando, about the "truths of women."

The Theater Under the Trees founder and director Michelle Denise Norton said that she chose to do "As You Like It" to challenge herself as a director.

Calvin Emery, left,  "Orlando" and Marisa Kouma, "Oliver", act out their parts for the play "As You Like It" Saturday, July 16, 2016, at a dress rehearsal in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

The play will have all of the traditional Shakespearean language, according to Norton, but will be set in the late 1980s. The idea for the setting came shortly after famous musician Prince died, while she was driving in her car listening to his music.

What's happening in York this weekend

"It was both a nostalgia moment and also an inspiration to think about how much he did with music," Norton said. "So I said, 'We might as well just do it in the late '80s.'"

The music for the play is show-specific to York County audiences and is created by Theater Under the Trees co-founder, music and voice director Gayle Eubank. The 1980s theme inspired five original pieces for the play, all composed by Eubank, who is also the city editor for The York Dispatch.

 Paige Gross,  "Touchstone", acts out her part for the play "As You Like It" Saturday, July 16, 2016, at a dress rehearsal in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

This is the 18th year that Theater Under the Trees, a branch of DreamWrights Center for Community Arts, has put on a Shakespeare play and performed it outside. Theater Under the Trees was founded by Norton 19 years ago when she decided that she would direct "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for DreamWrights' first birthday.

Theater Under the Trees is always held outdoors, making the scene more comfortable and informal. Norton said that she focuses on making the show fast, funny and physical. There's no intermission because people can bring their own snacks, a blanket and just get up and walk around the park if they get bored.

"But they won't get bored," Norton said with a laugh.

Calvin Emery, left,  "Orlando" and Jonah Unger, "Charles", act out their parts for the play "As You Like It" Saturday, July 16, 2016, at a dress rehearsal in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

She said she directs shows that she would want to watch. "And this is how I would want to spend my Saturday night," Norton added.

Below is a listing of times, dates and locations for each of the shows.

July 22: 6:30 p.m. Gifford Pinchot State Park

July 23: 5:30 p.m., Brown's Orchards & Farm Market

July 24: 6:30 p.m., Cousler Park

July 26: 6:30 p.m., Rudy County Park

July 28: 6:30 p.m., Sam Lewis State Park

July 29: 6:30 p.m., William Kain County Park

July 30: 6:30 p.m., Codorus State Park

July 31: 2:30 p.m., DreamWrights Center for Community Arts

From left, Paige Gross,  "Touchstone",  Kitty Geoghan "Celia" and Jasmine Graham, "Rosalind", act out their parts for the play "As You Like It" Saturday, July 16, 2016, at a dress rehearsal in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo