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Merely Players

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On Thursday, October 2nd, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC) kicks off its first season with As You Like It, a gender-bending blend of urban intrigue, pastoral romance, and blistering satire.

For centuries, scholars have wondered how any single person, let alone the son of a glove maker, could possibly write the complete works of William Shakespeare. The logical answer isn't — as so many have suggested — that one man didn't write it all. Rather, many believe that Shakespeare encouraged his actors to be inventive, and he used the resulting improvisations wisely. Before the super clown Robert Armin worked with Shakespeare to create the role of Touchstone, As You Like It's syllogism-spouting tenderfoot, the bard's clowns were bumpkins and know-nothings. Armin — who wrote the book on court jesters — made Touchstone an urbane creature with a quick, biting wit, and in doing so, he invented the Shakespearean fool.

Like Shakespeare before him, TSC's founder Dan McCleary has assembled an empowered team of actor-managers who live and work closely together to share creativity. McCleary, a Germantown native, learned his classical chops working with Tina Packer's Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, and his plans to create a year-round professional company in his hometown were inspired by that experience.

Ultimately, McCleary hopes to turn the grounds behind the Morgan Woods Theatre into an "arts park" and full-time home for his company. Whether or not that happens may hinge on the success of As You Like It.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company's "As You Like It" at St. George's Church, 2425 S. Germantown Road. Tickets for preview performances, Thursday, October 2nd, at 7 p.m. and Friday, October 3rd, at 7:30 p.m., are $15. For more information, go to tnshakespeare.org.

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