"All the world's a stage," William Shakespeare famously wrote, but audience members at New Albany High School's As You Like It might forget they are looking at one.
Set designers for the April 25-27 production say the audience will be pulled into court room and forest scenes by being part of them.
"We want (the audience) to ... feel like they are not in a theater space but that they actually are in a forest," said Carla Raleigh, a professional set designer from Atlanta.
Raleigh went to Ball State University with New Albany High School drama adviser and director Elliott Lemberg, and she has worked on several of the school's productions.
Lemberg said the district has a budget of $4,000 to pay contractors for plays. That budget will help pay Raleigh, costume designer Tatjana Longerot and lighting specialist John Gillie.
Raleigh was attaching tree branches to set pieces and painting shredded cloth to simulate leaves last week inside Mershad Hall at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.
Creating a forest inside a building may be the least challenging aspect of the production, according to Lemberg and some of the 27 cast members.
As You Like It is the high school's first attempt at Shakespeare, Lemberg said.
"I am a person who loves Shakespeare and I think there's so much to learn from the text," Lemberg said. "I think it's a great opportunity for the students because they often only get exposed to Shakespeare in English class.
"Most of them have never seen it on stage or performed it, and his pieces originally were written for performance."
Junior Haley Wilson, who will co-direct her sixth high school production, said the language is the most challenging piece "because it's Shakespeare and if you don't do it right and the actors don't make sure everything is clear, it can go right over the audience's head."
"It's almost in a different language," said junior Abbey Puderbaugh, who plays Audrey, a shepherdess in the forest of Arden.
Sophomore Jacob Mangia, who plays Duke Frederick, agreed.
"The language is a lot different and ... you have to research almost every word that doesn't make sense in our language," Mangia said.
Despite the language barrier, Mangia said, he relates to his character better than in some of the other four plays in which he's acted.
"I think this is one of the easier ones, because I'm more comfortable with the character," he said. "I like being in charge."
Puderbaugh, who has been involved in eight New Albany High School drama productions and this year's musical version of Legally Blonde, said the play is fun but challenging.
"(Shakespeare) definitely pulls out your inner actor more than in a musical," she said.
Lemberg said actors will walk away with "a whole new perspective on the language itself, on themselves and how incredibly relevant it still is. That's why we perform (Shakespeare's plays)."
To show the relevancy, Lemberg found a parallel between the strict rule of Duke Frederick's court and the individuality and inspiration found in the forest of Arden and Suzanne Collin's popular science fiction novel, The Hunger Games.
"What's really neat is that we will be able to relate it to a younger audience by doing it in the style of The Hunger Games," Lemberg said.
He said subtle references to The Hunger Games are incorporated in the costumes designed by Longerot, an Ohio State University graduate who designs costumes for CATCO.
Lemberg said Raleigh also incorporated references into the set. He said she consulted with actors during filming of the second movie, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which was filmed in Atlanta.
As You Like It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, and Friday, April 26, and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the McCoy center in New Albany.
Tickets are available online at seatyourself.biz/nah or at the door the day of the show.