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    As You Like It: A Musical Love Letter to the SF Queer Community

    Starting performances tonight, San Francisco Playhouse breathes new life into the Bard’s beloved play As You Like It as an imaginative musical, perfect for audiences of all ages this holiday season.

    Presented in hit productions by The Public Theater’s Public Works program, the exhilarating musical features an original folk-pop score by one of theatre’s most exciting new voices, Shaina Taub, whose work includes Off-Broadway’s Suffs, Twelfth Night seen at the San Francisco Playhouse last season, and The Devil Wears Prada musical with Sir Elton John. Taub teamed up with Laurie Woolery to transform this tale of exiles finding community in the idyllic woods into an exuberant testament to acceptance and diversity, serving as an apt reminder of what’s possible in today’s divisive era.

    The radical inclusion spotlighted in this new version of As You Like It includes bringing gender exploration and queer relationships centerstage. It subverts the heteronormative relationships typically found in productions of Shakespeare’s work with gender-bent characters (Audrey becomes Andy and Sylvius becomes Sylvia), providing fresh new layers and spotlighting the universality of these love stories.

    Trans male actor Ezra Reaves, who plays the part of Andy in the Playhouse’s production, exclaimed, “This is by far the queerest Shakespeare show I’ve ever done and a true love letter to the San Francisco Queer community!”

    The examination of gender identity is not new when looking at Shakespeare’s work. “Queerness and Shakespeare are intrinsically linked for me,” Reaves said to the San Francisco Bay Times. “I really love Shaina Taub’s take on As You Like It. Taking a play that is already fundamentally queer (men playing women playing men, women falling in love with women playing men), and making it explicitly queer is really exciting.”

    “All gender is a performance in some way or another,” added River Navaille. “Shakespeare corroborates this with As You Like It’s timeless phrase, ‘All the world’s a stage.’

    Navaille, a nonbinary actor, plays Rosalind in San Francisco Playhouse’s production. Even in Shakespeare’s original play, Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede for safety when the character faces exile, experimenting with gender expression. “Rosalind’s story is one I completely relate to,” said Navaille. “No one ever transitions gender expression without undertaking enormous risk. Physical safety and basic needs are primary and never guaranteed.”

    This new musical version of As You Like It takes Rosalind’s journey with gender expression a step further, with Taub’s lyrics allowing Navaille to delve deeper. “Early in the show, I sing, ‘Rosalind, just play the girl that you’re supposed to be … but if they only knew what’s dying to come out from underneath this costume,’” said Navaille. “For this Rosalind, the performance of prescribed femininity, as well as the restrictive conditions for women in the court, is an oppressive ‘costume’ that just doesn’t fit the bright and multi-faceted being underneath.” When Rosalind (as Ganymede) meets their crush Orlando in the woods as this alter-ego, they explore their own true identity and long for Orlando to see them for who they truly are.

    During the rehearsal process, Reaves is exploring how his identity as a trans male actor influences his character, who falls in love with the male clown Touchstone, played by actor Nicholas Yenson. “I think the fact that I am a trans actor plays more deeply into the play’s themes of ‘love beyond gender.’ In the world of the play, there’s no gay or straight; there are just people and stories of how they find and fall in love, regardless of gender.”

    Reaves also works with director Bill English and Yenson to further investigate the characters’ love story: “Audrey was written as a woman who is passionately pursuing Touchstone, and is meant as comedic relief, at the expense of women. Audrey is supposed to be the butt of the joke because she is nagging Touchstone into commitment, and he is trying to escape. We tried to find ways to flesh out Andy into a living breathing person with a deep well of emotions, who is in love with Touchstone, yes, but is self-confident enough to walk away. We are making choices with the delivery of the text that better reflects the communities we are a part of and the kinds of queer relationships we see.”

    Reaves encourages theatre lovers from the Bay Area’s queer communities and beyond to see the show. “This is an electric explosion of queer love and joy, which we see far too little of! This production is feel-good, family-friendly, and queer community-oriented! What more could you ask for?”

    San Francisco Playhouse presents a new musical adaptation of As You Like It November 17, 2022, through January 14, 2023. Tickets and information can be found by calling the box office at 415-677-9596 or visiting

    NOTE (Added on 11/23/22): San Francisco Playhouse has paused performances of As You Like It until Saturday, December 3, 2022. All performances between Wednesday, November 23, to 3 pm Saturday, December 3, are cancelled. Performances will resume 8 pm Saturday, December 3, 2022, and will continue through January 14, 2023. For more information, please visit

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on November 17, 2022