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Saturday December 10th

Modern approach to 'As You Like It' explores love and technology

The play, performed by the Kenan Theatre Company, opens this week.

Performance times at the Kenan Theatre:

Thursday at 8 p.m.

Friday at 8 p.m.

Saturday at 8 p.m. 

Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Monday at 5 p.m. 

They say love is electric, but, at times, it's technology that gets in the way of connection. 

That's what Hope Alexander wants to say with her take on Shakespeare’s classic play, “As You Like It.” The play will be performed by the Kenan Theatre Company starting tonight.

Alexander is a professional actor and director and is excited about directing “As You Like It,” which, after over 50 years of acting, remains her favorite of the plays she's performed in. Through this quirky Shakespearean comedy, Alexander intends to teach audiences about intimacy and learning how to love.

“One of the themes the director is exploring with the show is our dependence on technology,” said Rachel Davis, a senior dramatic art major and student producer. “And how that separates us from each other in our modern world.”

The virtual world of cell phones, selfies and texting is represented in the cold world of the court, run by Queen Fredericka, who banishes her sister Senora to the forest in order to steal the throne. Their daughters, Celia and Rosalind, are as close as sisters. When Queen Fredericka banishes Rosalind, suspicious that she's stealing attention away from her own daughter, the daughters escape together to the forest.

The forest represents a world free of electricity, cell towers and other distractions from one-on-one communication. It is here that Rosalind, dressed as a man, teaches her suitor, Orlando, how to love. Now able to connect as humans instead of through technology, several of the characters in Rosalind’s band fall in love.

“We’re living in a virtual world, and what’s happening is that really touching each other in any kind of truly intimate or fundamental way is going away,” Alexander said. “We have a faux intimacy instead of a real intimacy.”

Alexander designed the world of the court to be a cold, unfeeling place where people are glued to their tablets and smartphones, unable to truly connect to each other. When Shakespeare’s characters are banished to the forest, they lack internet or cell reception and must learn to rediscover the human connection they had been missing.

“We’re hoping people will walk out thinking about how the use of technology affects their life and their social relationships,” Davis said.

Tickets to the performance cost $10 for the general public and $5 for UNC students.

Because of its relationship with the Department of Dramatic Art, the Kenan Theatre Company can provide undergraduate actors with opportunities for faculty mentorship for student designers. This relationship also enables them to hire professional directors, like Alexander.

“I think theater should make you think and should engage you mentally,” said junior dramatic arts major Rachael Tuton, who plays Celia. “I’m hoping with this show the audience will see a kind of mirror to society now, where technology and text messaging interfere with what communication used to be like decades ago or even a few years ago.”

The purpose of the show is to highlight an emotion that has remained strong despite technological development.

“Love is still a magical thing, and it’s not a virtual thing — it’s a real thing,” Alexander said.

“Put down your cell phones and pick up your hearts.”

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