Any decent director will tell you that casting is at least 80% of the job, and in some plays casting your lead is most of the casting. You'd be crazy to do Hamlet, without knowing in advance who's your Prince of Denmark, or Richard III without a clue about who's going to be your guy with the hump. The same is true for casting Rosalind in As You Like It. The play is not hers alone, but it's certainly more hers than anyone's. She has more lines than any woman character in Shakespeare. And they are good lines too. She's Shakespeare's most gifted comic heroine, and, as Harold Bloom says, "as remarkable in her mode as Falstaff and Hamlet are in theirs." In other words, it's a pretty good role. But as recently as two months ago I had no idea who our Rosalind might be.
There are talented actresses in Colorado, many of whom might be wonderful Rosalinds, but I hadn't found mine. My Rosalind had to be tall, poised, natural, charming, vocally pleasing, highly intelligent, comically expressive, full of wit and full of feeling, very feminine and also delightful as a guy. Not so much to ask you might think, but after auditions here and in Denver I wasn't sure I'd found my girl. So I called Bonnie Grisham, a casting director at the Mark Taper Forum, to see if she could help. She could. After hearing what I was after, she gave me a list of 10 actresses she thought could do the role. I tracked them all done and left messages. Three of them replied with interest. My feelings were not hurt. It was short notice, and Colorado Springs is not necessarily the ideal summer destination for an aspiring young actress. There are few casting agents and television producers in our audience. It's beautiful flyover country. The pay is lousy. Any actor coming here is coming because they want to the role—one of the greatest ever. That's enough--for the right girl.
I found myself interested in a woman called Jane Noseworthy. Her resume listed no leading Shakespeare heroines. She was currently doing a revue about hula hoops and pop songs at the Milwaukee Rep. What jumped out in her resume was a footnote which idenitified her as a former Miss Nebraska. Hula Hoops, pop songs, and swimsuits are not necessarily obvious qualifications for Rosalind, but nor are they detractions. What intrigued me first was Bonnie's recommendation, and also the good words of artistic directors at theatrers where she's worked—no one could say enough good things about Jane Noseworthy. I couldn't afford to arrange an on site audition, so I asked Jane to read a scene or two and put in on camera and send it our way. This she did-—a day later I had her austion emailed to me. O brave new world! I loved what I saw and what I heard. I liked that she had not dressed up for the part. I loved her reading—effortless, musical, lucid, and entirely natural. And so I did what I have never done in three decades. I cast a lead actor sight unseen. Jane Noesworthy is our Rosalind.
And how is she in real life? Everything I might have hoped for—and more. Rosalind may be the most triumphant character in Shakespeare. Unlike his other great protagonists, her personality is not shaped by conflict and obstacles. It's true that at the beginning of the play she's alone in an oppressive court, the daughter of a banished father, and that soon she is banished herself. But, as it turns out, she's banished to paradise. For Rosalind, Arden is a garden of unfettered opportunity There's nothing in her way—she's free to develop as her fancy and instincts suggest. Before our eyes, we seen Rosalind unfurl and blossom with a freedom unmatched in all comic theatre. First she's a girl. Then she's a girl playing a guy. Then she's a girl playing a guy playing a girl. Her possibilities seem infinite, and her intelligence, wit and sense of play are up to any challenge. The same might be said of Miss Noseworthy our former Miss Nebraska currently having lots of fun as a guy in the woods. Here are a few glimpses of her explaining to Orlando, her future husband, how she once cured a lovesick man by pretending to be his rather too expressive girlfriend—quite a handful, I'd say. Might well drive you to live in a nook, merely monastic. Or else you'd just give up and fall in love.
Scott Hatanaka, July 27, 2008: I think you made a great choice. I first saw Miss Noseworthy, playing the female lead, Josephine, in HMS Pinafore at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2006 and was impressed enough with her performance to actually recognize her name in your credits, when I attended the AYLI performance in Highlands Ranch this Friday. Congrats on snaring a fine performer...