Stage favorite and current star of Public Work's As You Like It Darius de Haas (Shuffle Along, Marie Christine) steps back into the role of Duke Senior this summer at Free Shakespeare in the Park's Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. As You Like It was adapted by Public Theater Artist-in-Residence Shaina Taub and Director of Public Works Laurie Woolery, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub. The musical features two rotating ensembles of 127 New Yorkers from all five boroughs.
Originally a part of the 2017 production, Haas shares his experience returning to the show through his lens.
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"As You Like It was the very first Shakespeare play I ever saw. I remember the actors in it, I remember the closing number of it—I was like seven years old when I saw it, so this really is a full circle moment. We were supposed to do the show again, I believe, two years ago, and then it got pushed, so the fact that we are back is just thrilling for me, and I am so grateful for it. I think it means so much for the community and it means so much to the people who come to see it. Not only to see what I think is truly one of the best versions of the show–Shaina Taub is a genius—but also I think it was Joe Papp’s mission for people who would not have exposure to theatre to see it and to see themselves reflected on stage. Public Works and this production have really raised that bar in not only being theatre for the public to see, but for the public to participate and see themselves in."
"What's so amazing about this show, and I think with theatre in general, is that it can really reflect the times, even in ways that you don't even realize that it's going to. Five years ago [for Public Works' 2017 production of As You Like It] we had a certain president in office and a lot had shifted in the country at that time. It all hit such a nerve that I don't think any of us would have been as passionate, as angry, and as determined as we were to put on this show and to let what was happening reverberate [on stage] and hopefully give a healing or escape to whoever needed it."
"So here we are five years later coming out of a pandemic and the country being greatly polarized (even more) and people going through a lot of loss but there's also been growth for many. In that time of isolation that was forced upon us we had to reassess how we walk in this world. My character, The Duke, who is in power, gets overthrown by his own brother. There’s family trauma and drama, but it shows how we look at power and how we look at the way we do things and how we may reassess that."
"This all affects me deeply and very differently [than 2017]. I lost my father two weeks before we started rehearsal and it's hard, but this show is a real haven for me because I'm still processing my grief. That is what this journey has been about in great part for me. When I sing the words, 'when we're messy and weepy, feeble and old…' it just hits me even harder this time around. I feel the weight of it in such a deeper dimension. I see subtle things on stage like the older couples coming to the center of the stage and I'm just a mess. It’s very interesting this year, coming off the pandemic, Broadway coming back–it's been wonderful, but it's also been very difficult and challenging. I'm very proud to be a part of Black Theatre United. I'm trying to help break down the walls of systemic and institutionalized racism in our industry and having boots on the ground in this show and seeing how Public Works, which has always been a very inviting and respectful place to work, has incorporated that, I just feel very privileged and very emotional about it."