Aimee Doherty consistently wows Boston audiences with memorable performances, most often in musicals, including her recent turn as Sally Bowles in Moonbox Productions’ “Cabaret,” but her role as Rosalind in “As You Like It” marks her Shakespeare & Company debut.
“This is the first time I didn’t chicken out of the audition,” she says with a laugh. “But it was also the first time they held auditions in Boston. I haven’t done a lot of Shakespeare, but I have found that working with Shakespeare’s text is a lot like interpreting a song. You need to really understand what you’re saying and where your character is at that moment.”
“As You Like It,” which runs Aug. 9-Sept. 2 in the outdoor Roman Garden Theatre on Shakespeare & Company’s Lenox campus, follows the adventures of Rosalind and her cousin Celia when they escape to the forest of Arden disguised as young men. Rosalind has been banished by her uncle, with little understanding of his anger. Before departing, she falls in love with a young man named Orlando, who also flees in fear of his life.
Their chance meeting in the forest creates lots of opportunities for comedy around mistaken identities as well as more poignant notions of home and belonging.
Director Allyn Burrows, who is also artistic director at Shakespeare & Company, was familiar with Doherty’s work in Boston and says she brings a wide spectrum of experience to the role.
“ ‘As You Like It’ is a comedy, but there is some sorrow in there,” says Burrows. “Aimee brings a kind of longing to the role that comes with life experience.”
The play, which includes the famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy, balances Shakespeare’s love for comic hijinks with a touch of melancholy.
“Early in the play,” says Doherty, “Orlando has a beautiful speech in which he says no one in the world will lament his death. I think Rosalind is touched by that, because she feels so alone, too.”
Burrows says he was struck by the play’s transformations from overwhelming hate to sudden and overwhelming love. “This is Shakespeare’s optimistic view. It’s how you like it,” he says. “He believes that in the end, love can conquer all.”
For her part, Doherty says playing a woman who is central to the story is a great gift.
“Rosalind is smart and courageous, but she’s not perfect,” she says. “Her position in the court has always been tenuous, since her mother is dead and her father has already been banished by her uncle. The forest of Arden is dangerous. She may be frightened but she also knows there are possibilities out there she wouldn’t have access to back in court.”
The story will be told with just nine actors, and several of them count “As You Like It” as their fourth Shakespearean play together, but Burrows says Doherty sets the bar for the rest of the company.
“She’s accustomed to playing a leading figure,” he says, “and knows how to take care of the rest of the cast.”
Doherty says performing outdoors in natural light — performances take place at 5 p.m. — has also been an adjustment. “The darkness in an auditorium and the lighting on the stage offers something to bounce off,” she says, “but the environmental setting has its own magic.”
StageSource taps Simmons
‘She’s accustomed to playing a leading figure, and knows how to take care of the rest of the cast.’
Dawn Simmons, who most recently directed the Lyric Stage’s hit production of “The Wiz,” has been named the new executive director of StageSource, the Greater Boston alliance of theater artists and producers. She returns to the organization Aug. 27 after serving as director of performing arts at the Boston Center for the Arts for the past four years. She succeeds Julie Hennrikus, who had led the group since 2011 and is launching an online arts administration school.
At StageSource, Simmons spent a decade working as the marketing manager before becoming director of programs. She is also a founder and artistic director of both the New Exhibition Room and the Front Porch Arts Collective.
“I am looking forward to returning to StageSource, an organization I love,” says Simmons. “In my time away, I have had the opportunity to work as a director [at the Lyric, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and Greater Boston Stage Company], and in my role at the BCA was able to get a much more holistic picture of the needs of the theater community.”
At the BCA, Simmons was responsible for working with all the groups that perform in the spaces there as well as the artist residencies.
“I got a much better sense of the needs of performing artists and companies by seeing how they used the spaces they rented,” she says. “I also hope to continue directing, although I may do a little less, because I think being a working artist in the community is invaluable when advocating for it.”
Although she has some clear goals, Simmons says she will start the job with a “listening tour” to make sure she hears from organizations and individual artists.
“My priorities include the issues of space, for rehearsing and performing, as well as training to ensure we sharpen our skills, and an effort to get national attention and support for the new voices and productions that are creating great work on our local stages.”
Displaced in Boston
“This Place/Displaced” is a collection of eight new documentary plays that chronicle the personal experiences of individuals who have been displaced from the city because of gentrification or eviction. Playwrights Kirsten Greenidge, David Valdes Greenwood, MJ Halberstadt, Livian Yeh, Jaymes Sanchez, Stephanie K. Brownell, Zahra A. Belyea, and Manuel Aquiles Lopez Torres partnered with community members to create the plays, which will be presented by Artists’ Theater of Boston at the Charlestown Working Theater Aug. 17-18 and Aug. 24-25. Tickets $5 and $10. For more information, visit www.artiststheatre.org.
AS YOU LIKE IT
Presented by Shakespeare & Company. At Roman Garden Theatre, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Aug. 9-Sept. 2. Tickets $20-$60, 413-637-3353, www.shakespeare.orgTerry Byrne can be reached at email@example.com.