On December 31, 2023, Bard Founding Artistic Director Christopher Gaze was celebrating New Year’s Eve in what was, in many ways, a fitting send-off to the year. He was in Washington, D.C., ringing in 2024 with the cast of As You Like It at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. It was a performance that Christopher describes as “absolute magic,” especially with so many familiar faces from Bard’s 2023 Company on stage. “At the end of the show,” he recalls, “our stage manager [Joanne P. B. Smith] came to us in the theatre and took us backstage, where we drank champagne with our cast until the new year was rung in. It was a night to remember, and it made me marvellously proud of our brilliant achievement.”

A birds-eye view of the Washington DC theatre design

Shakespeare Theatre Company stage set for As You Like It. Set Design by Pam Johnson, Lighting Design by Gerald King, and photo by Jonathan Ryder.

There certainly was cause to celebrate that evening, on what would have been the production’s closing night performance. Like in 2018, when it first broke Bard’s box office records, director Daryl Cloran’s Beatles-infused take on As You Like It was a runaway hit in D.C., opening to glowing reviews in publications like the Washington Post and Broadway World, before later receiving a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Visiting Production. Shakespeare Theatre Company would eventually extend the production twice, first to January 7, and then to January 14, 2024.

“Uproarious… This twist toward counterculture makes As You Like It as accessible as ever.” —The Washington Post 

“I am incredibly proud of the show, of director Daryl Cloran, our actors, our designers, and on and on,” says Christopher. Bringing the show on tour is also no small feat, he adds. “Our incredible Executive Director, Claire Sakaki, was the one who managed it all – but we all played our parts in one way or another… Our amazing Production Director Jonathan Ryder and his team made sure the set, props, and costumes were set aside and safe so that they could travel and be ready at the next venue. The whole thing was huge, especially maintaining the rights to the Beatles music, which Claire is an expert at!”

Christopher wasn’t the only one who had the chance to catch As You Like It at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. “As soon as I heard that As You Like It would play in D.C., I told my five sisters that we had to gather at Julie’s house in Maryland for a sisters’ weekend so we could all see it together,” says Director of Education Mary Hartman. “I love this production so much, and it was such a treat to share it with my family. The show was phenomenal, and the company was so gracious in coming out to say ‘hello’ and meet my sisters afterwards. Everyone loved it, and one of my sisters, on the verge of tears, declared, ‘That was just so perfect!’”

Members of the As You Like It DC cast surrounding the Hartman sisters

Cast members of As You Like It surround the Hartman sisters. Photo provided by Mary Hartman.

Our Production Director, Jonathan Ryder, was also in D.C. for the production’s closing night performance. “There was a lovely gathering after the show for a toast,” he tells us. “The backstage crew, understudies, cast, and several staff were there (as were [Scenic Designer] Pam [Johnson], [Technical Director] Richard [Hansen], and myself). Each person recounted a favourite moment from the run of the show, and it was quite touching to get a sense of the special experience our Company had brought there and shared with the Shakespeare Theatre Company team.” Though he and his team were busy preparing for the production’s next stop in Calgary, there were still opportunities to explore everything that D.C. had to offer: “When we weren’t in the theatre, we had some time to visit a few of the abundant museums and art galleries in Washington. It was a lovely trip across the continent to collaborate with theatre makers there!”

We are thrilled with the success of As You Like It’s run in Washington, D.C., and we extend our warmest congratulations to everyone involved in this production. It’s been incredibly heartening to see this joyous and heartfelt show back on the road again, delighting audiences across North America.

“Producers from across Canada and the States came to see the show [in 2018], and ambitious plans were prepared for the production to play far and wide,” says Christopher. “I firmly believe that if the pandemic hadn’t hit when it did then the production would have more than likely ended up in the great theatre centres of the world – Broadway and the West End of London. Who knows… it still might!”

For now, As You Like It will return to Western Canada for a stint at Theatre Calgary, where it will welcome back some familiar faces from Bard’s 2023 Company. After that – well, all the world’s a stage.

Don’t miss As You Like It at Theatre Calgary, running February 27 – March 24, 2024. Get your tickets here!