Shakespeare at Emory: To Be or Not to Be better done by men or women?

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Shakespeare at Emory: To Be or Not to Be better done by men or women?

As you like it?

They really, really mean it.

Theater Emory is putting a whole new “What’s in a gender?” spin on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedies starting tonight. First an all-male cast will perform “As You Like It,” then an all-female cast on Saturday. And so on and so forth through April 10th, when you can actually catch both versions on the same day.

What would Will say?

Maybe this, from “Macbeth”:

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.”

Or maybe not. Who knows, the novel casting approach — in which the genders of the characters and the lines all will remain as Shakespeare wrote them — might make audiences see some things in a whole new light.

We are interested in hearing Shakespeare’s play through the voices of male performers and the voices of female performers,” said Jan Akers, who’ll direct the all-female cast. “We are curious to see if certain themes, points of view, and emotions might come into focus differently or similarly in the two productions.”

The play helps kick off a monthslong celebration leading up to the arrival of Shakespeare’s First Folio at Emory in November. Two members of Shakespeare’s acting company compiled the beyond-rare First Folio in 1623, seven years after his death. It was the only source for 18 of his 38 plays; without it, the world might never have seen “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night” and — forsooth! — “As You Like It.”

Emory is the only site in Georgia selected to host the national traveling exhibition of the First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It will be on view at Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum from Nov. 5 through Dec. 11.

But fear not. There’s plenty of opportunity to get your Shake on before then. On April 23rd, Emory is throwing a “Twelve Hour Shakespeare Anniversary Celebration,” featuring everything from a large-scale battle scene to a high tea. Plus wandering fools. The Shakespeare kind, not the usual college kind.

For “As You Like It” tickets and information, go to theater.emory.edu. For complete information on all upcoming “Shakespeare at Emory” events, go to shakespeare.folio.emory.edu

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