An outsider walking in on last week’s performance of As You Like It may have found himself in a state of utter confusion, witnessing audience members sitting on the edges of their seats as an actor has a wrestling match with what appears to be a hat.

What this onlooker does not know is that the Actors from the London Stage (AFTLS) has the audience entirely convinced that this inanimate object is in fact a living, breathing human being. AFTLS is a group of five British actors who travel across America performing Shakespearean plays.

What many students do not realize is the extent of Notre Dame’s connection to this touring group. According to Peter Holland, the academic director of the program and the Notre Dame McMeel Family Chair of Shakespeare Studies, “We’re responsible for booking the tours, their flights, and the whole of their work in the U.S.” He went on to say, “Their last week of rehearsal occurs at Notre Dame. They play here first before taking their play to other campuses.”

I feel very privileged to be that (American) base for one of the oldest Shakespeare touring companies in the world,” Scott Jackson, the Executive Director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame, explained to the Rover. “The first time [AFTLS] came [to Notre Dame] was in 1990, with the production of As You Like It.”

It is safe to say that audience members found this year’s play just as captivating as the one performed twenty-four years ago.

Their performance showcased their talents especially when they had to switch characters and take on a completely new persona,” said sophomore PLS major Catherine Clark. “It also demanded more intellectual involvement from the audience due to lack of props and costumes. I liked that it was challenging and more thought-provoking.”

Holland agrees with this perspective: “It’s about our imagination in the audience meeting the actors’ imagination on the stage. The words have more power when you don’t spell it out in what you see. That’s the thrill.”

Even though limited amounts of props and a barren stage may seem to be setbacks, sophomore English major Emma Shannon reported, “With their limited cast and sparse stage, AFTLS gave more than enough in a performance that I won’t ever forget.” Shannon saw the actors’ performance of Othello last fall.

Sophomore Psychology major Mark Garcia commented on the effectiveness of the small cast: “By using only five actors/actresses, it showcased the talent of each one playing multiple different characters, offering a unique take on performing.”

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of having the actors here at Notre Dame is not their time spent on the stage, but their time spent in the classroom.

They work in classes all over campus—architecture, engineering, law school, business,” Holland further reported. “They teach how to present yourself, your project, and your ideas.”

Henry Weinfield, a PLS professor, brought the actors in to his Shakespeare and Milton class: “I look at Shakespeare as literature, being more interested in the philosophical themes. [The actor who came to my class] loosened up the students and got them attuned to certain aspects of the play that I wouldn’t have been able to.”

Sophomore PLS major Maggie McDowell experienced a class with an actor as well.

Jennifer Higham [who played Rosalind] helped us work with the text from an actor’s perspective rather than from an academic perspective, and it was interesting to see how many different ways there are to approach the same speech,” she noted. “Actors look to breathe life into Shakespeare in a way I’m not sure academics do.”

Shannon agrees: “We were reading Othello at the time, and we had Iago as our teacher for the day. I distinctly remember the whole class being in a circle on our knees. We recited one of Iago’s monologues in iambic pentameter, keeping the rhythm by slapping our hands on the ground. It was very powerful because we could actually hear which words stood out from the text. It allowed us to connect to Shakespeare rhythmically and allowed the text to come alive.”

The touring group not only brings delight to community audience members twice a year, but also teaches students from all different academic backgrounds how to bring text to life. In reply to Rosalind’s question in Act 4, Scene 1, in As You Like It, “Can one desire too much of a good thing?”

No, Rosalind, one cannot…if we are speaking about AFTLS coming to Notre Dame.

Caroline Corsones is a sophomore English major with a minor in secondary education. Her hair is so curly that she once ran for a student government position with the slogan, “Big Hair, Bigger Ideas.” Contact her at if you would like to further discuss AFTLS…or if you have hair care tips.