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A Day with Brooklyn Technical High School Students

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[After the presentation of As You Like It, I sat down in the auditorium with Maria Gershuni, who played Rosalind.]

In the Q&A at the end of the play, you mentioned some things about your character. Explain again why you went with the Russian accent

MARIA: Well, I figured she’s a very sheltered person, and she has this chance to be absolutely anybody. So why would she choose to be another British man when she can be anybody after—she’s, like 17, so—17 years of being a conservative woman. So, she picks this crazy name, and why not have a crazy accent to go along with it? Exotic, you know, something different.

But you did it for technical reasons, too.

MARIA: Oh, well, it’s also because my voice is kind of naturally high, so if I spoke in a Russian accent [here she does] it naturally brings it down lower, and that sounds more like a guy [which it does].

And I thought it was really interesting when you said you didn’t try to play a guy, you played a girl pretending to be a guy. Expound on that.

MARIA: Well, there are moments, even in the script, especially with that one interaction with Orlando, where she runs out and she loves him so she can’t—she forgets, almost, that she is a guy because she loves this guy so much. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with guys, she’s grown up in a very strict household. So for her, it was a new experience, so she can’t be very good at it but she has to be convincing enough for everybody else.

Do you think Orlando falls in love with her?

MARIA: Yes.

With Ganymede?

MARIA: I think he’s very very confused, I don’t think he’s smart enough to really understand.

Have you done any Shakespeare before?

MARIA: I have done Shakespeare recitation, which is just monologues in Shakespeare, and I did Richard III. I did Lady Anne.

Oooh. What did you think of Lady Anne?

MARIA: I actually really liked Lady Anne.

Did you figure her out?

MARIA: Well, I tried. My thing with her was in the second act, when we first see her and she enters with the funeral procession. So it’s the scene just before she meets Richard, so that one was just her grief.

Have you read much Shakespeare?

MARIA:I have read some. I did not read the entire Richard III, I read the first few scenes in it. I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet.

Do you like Shakespeare?

MARIA: I like Shakespeare a lot. I really love it.

Why?

MARIA: I like Shakespeare because—OK, there are certain lines in Shakespeare that I feel completely starstruck by. You know, there are certain things that I hear all the time, for example there’s this one line from Hamlet, and I read it a couple of years ago and I had no idea that “The lady doth protest too much” was from Hamlet, and I’ve heard it somewhere before and I thought that was a very interesting thing to say, and then I read it and I’m like, “Oh my god, this is where it’s from.” And that’s why I like Shakespeare, becomes sometimes it’s like star spotting. It’s like, “Wow! This is where that's from. I’m reading the original text.”

So, other than Lady Anne, this is the first time you’ve played Shakespeare.

MARIA: I played Lady Macbeth, but that was in a smaller, classroom thing.

Do you think it comes alive more or, do you think it’s good enough reading it or do you think it…?

MARIA: No, I completely don’t think it’s good enough reading it. I hate when teachers tell us to just read it, and I’m saying, “No, you can’t, you completely can’t.” I love performing it. I think the only way to read Shakespeare is to perform it. You don’t have to stand up, but at least try to perform it. And I really feel the best medium for Shakespeare is on the stage. I’ve seen several adaptations of Shakespeare meant for the screen and it didn’t feel as alive to me as it is presented on stage.

What’s your take on As You Like It?

MARIA: I like this play. I think it’s very funny. I think it’s universally funny. Like, cross-dressing is always going to get at least one laugh. And even if you don’t really understand—even if some of the dialogue gets lost—the script, with the way the characters gesture and their expressions, it will get a reaction.

And Rosalind, of course, is one of Shakespeare’s great heroines…

MARIA: I have a question, is it Rosalind [short "i" sound] or RosalInd [long I sound]? Because the poems rhyme with RosalInd.

Uh, actually both.

MARIA: OK

If you follow the rhyme it should be RosalInd, but at one point they make a joke of it.

MARIA: To make it, like, poetry.

Right. And I think it’s Touchstone who kind of touches on that. And when the [Royal Shakespeare Company] did it up here, they really played up that joke. I really don’t know.

MARIA: Yeah. I was really confused. Because everyone was saying Rosalind, and I felt like I was the only one saying like RosalInd.

So, do you think Rosalind/RosalInd is a great character?

MARIA: I think she is.

Why?

MARIA: Because I think she represents everything—like, the fantasy of every single girl is to become somebody completely different. You always, always dream of doing exciting things, especially when you’re a teenager and you’ve grown up your entire life with your family, you always want to run away, you always want to have exciting adventures, but you still want to keep part of your old life, just bring all your friends into a whole new setting. So, she sees the opportunity, and it’s a very hard opportunity because she’s been banished, which is terrible. But she makes the best of it.

Do you think Celia is important in the play?

MARIA: I think Celia is more important in the whole play. In this one, she was decently important. That was the one thing I felt wasn’t emphasized enough.

Yeah. A good Celia makes a great Rosalind.

MARIA: Yeah.

Is this a career for you? Do you want to go into acting or is it just fun?

MARIA: I want to go into politics, which is really a form of acting, you know. That’s all it is. So, [she laughs] I guess, yes, I do.

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[For a PDF of this interview, click here]