Market House Theatre is putting on William Shakespeare's pastoral comedy "As You Like It" as its first-ever production in the Noble Park Amphitheater this weekend.
Three performances are planned -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. each day -- and each is free and open to the public.
"We've talked about doing Shakespeare in the Park for a while, and the challenge has been resources," said Michael Cochran, MHT's executive director.
A resource who has been previously unavailable to Cochran is Ashlee Brotherton, a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and now MHT's education assistant, who pushed for the theater to pursue the program. She is also directing the play.
"I've seen firsthand just how exciting outdoor Shakespeare could be, and I felt that a town like Paducah was the perfect place to launch something like this: an event where people of all ages can gather to experience the works of one of the most celebrated playwrights of all time in a setting that feels both comfortable and enjoyable," Brotherton told the Sun.
Though Brotherton has directed many productions, in her eyes, putting on any Shakespeare can be tough.
"The greatest challenge with Shakespeare is the tendency for the cast to perform as if the people are not real, just lofty poetry machines," she said. "This has been something we've worked on meticulously, diving into the humanity of these characters and their experiences and making sure that every word that is spoken is fully understood by the actors. By doing this, we've been able to achieve a production that is clear and extremely relatable."
Cochran is aware that holding the performance outside brings its own set of difficulties.
"That's the point of outdoor theatre. You have no control over certain aspects. It can be absolutely beautiful or it can be pouring down rain," Cochran said. "Lately the weather here has been miserably hot and pouring rain."
Whether or not the production goes on each day will be decided by the weather. There is no rainy day alternative.
The show is cast entirely from area high school and college students, including: Mo Cox, Jaden Ramey, Max Medford, Andrew Castleman, Damien Lowry, Patrick McHaney, Davin Belt, Martha McHaney, Taylor Edwards, Zoey Brinker, Sydnie Midyett, Kate Bidwell, Sophia Hoffman and Jacob Harris. Belt is also Brotherton's assistant director.
Live music will be performed during and before the show by Maya Romanak, Bidwell, Patrick McHaney, Castleman, Alivia Goodwin and Aheeza Ali. Romanak is also serving as the production's music director.
Love notes have been posted around the city mirroring the actions of one of the play's characters as part of an "As You Like It"-theme scavenger hunt MHT is doing in conjunction with local businesses Con Fleur, Pipers Tea & Coffee, Etcetera Coffeehouse, Paducah Beer Werks and Maiden Alley Cinema.
Food trucks will be on the scene during each of the performances to give the program a more festival-like feel.
Going forward, Cochran hopes that MHT will pursue more programming in the amphitheater.
"This is an experiment, that's what we're doing is a test run to see if we can do this here. I would like to see how this goes and then we'll make a decision about whether or not we do this again or annually," he said. "I'm not making that full commitment at this point until we see what the pitfalls are."
Brotherton echoed Cochran's hopes.
"I believe this is the beginning of something very special, and my hope is that we can get folks out to see what this is all about so we can keep doing this year after year."
To keep up with all the productions at Market House Theatre, visit www.markethousetheatre.org.