The Actors' Theatre's next production will be a comedy spiked with whimsy.

The Actors' Theatre's next production will be a comedy spiked with whimsy.

Next week the company will start its run of Shakespeare's "As You Like It," but the classic comedy will come with a twist. Among members of the cast will be life-sized puppets.

"It's a comedy and I think ideally suited for this very different approach," said John S. Kuhn, co-director of the production. "It opens up the world of imagination that is sometimes not possible."

"As You Like It" will run 8 p.m. each Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 6 through Sept. 6, at Schiller Park, 1000 City Park Ave. The show is free but donations are encouraged. In the event of inclement weather, performances will be canceled.

The comedy follows heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in the Forest of Arden with her cousin, Celia, and court jester, Touchstone.

Kuhn said he decided to use puppets after seeing several performances that used them.

He said he hoped the different take on the play will help attract a wider audience.

Since he has limited experience with puppets, Kuhn said, he recruited local puppeteer Beth Kattelman, one of the founders of the Cincinnati-based Madcap Productions, to co-direct.

Both Kuhn and Kattelman said the addition of the puppets, which range in size from three to eight feet, has added a different dimension to the production, allowing for humor that otherwise wouldn't be present.

"A lot of the puppets have given us some opportunity for physical comedy," Kuhn said.

"We can do things with puppets that we can't do with actors," Kattelman said.

Cast members have had varying degrees of experience with puppets.

"It is a very different mindset for the actors as puppeteers because you want all your energy to go into the puppet," Kuhn said. "You really need to focus on things such as manipulating the mouth with dialogue."

The job comes with physical discomfort as well.

"One of the biggest challenges has been for the performers to just build up the strength because (the puppets) are big," Kattelman said. "It's a lot of stress on the arm just to hold something up."

A majority of the puppets in the production are repurposed from various plays Kattelman has work on through the years. She said she had wanted to do a puppet play in the park for several years and jumped at the chance.

Kattelman said the cast approaches the production as if it were a fairy tale.

"There are these silly things happening and a bunch of really fun characters running around," she said.