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New York — Rosalind in “As You Like It” is a juicy role for any young actress. The latest to take on the part? The 22-year-old Rebecca Hall in a production directed by her father, Sir Peter. The play returns to the States for a run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater next week, before heading to Los Angeles and then San Francisco. (The show, which originated at the Theatre Royal Bath, toured Boston, Ohio and New Haven in 2003.)
“I think if you’re going to do anything for two years, Rosalind’s a pretty good place to start,” says Hall on a break from packing up her apartment in London. “She has more words than any of Shakespeare’s females, so on a basic, fast-talking level, it’s challenging just getting the words out. Her wit is so quick, her mind works at such a pace, that with the extraordinarily complex jokes she makes, you just spend a lot of time working out what she’s saying.”
Hall says she always wanted to be an actress, though she went through “a bit of a stage” wanting to be an artist. “But that was a rebellion,” she adds. (Her mother is the opera singer Maria Ewing.) A self-proclaimed film geek, Hall acted throughout high school, though in mostly male parts because of her 5-foot, 10-inch height. There was the 50-year-old man in a wheelchair she played in her all-girl’s school production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” which, to this day, befuddles the actress. “There are a lot of other plays out there that don’t involve wheelchairs,” Hall jokes of the selection.
While studying at Cambridge, she amassed a large collection of Forties dresses, but as far as beauty and fitness go, Hall says her regimen is similar to that of many British women: “I’m not good with keeping up on doing yoga or washing my face with expensive cosmetics. I’m quite lazy about it.”
The decision to work with her father, however, wasn’t something she could be lazy about. “I think it was a huge risk for him,” Hall explains. “It was very much in my hands, but he had the faith.” After some seesawing, she decided that any other actor would kill for the opportunity. Father and daughter collaborated on a successful production of Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” in 2002 in Bath, where she has since returned for more Shaw, sans père.
“Ever since my father took me seriously as an actress at 15 or 16, he always said to me Rosalind was my part,” Hall says of the character, who, banished to the Forest of Arden, disguises herself as a man, Ganymede, just as she falls in love with Orlando. Sir Peter, known for his long career directing Shakespeare, had never done the play, and when “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” was so well received, he asked his daughter: “Why don’t we do [‘As You Like It’] now?”
“I got very scared because I thought I was too young,” Hall continues. “But I thought, it’s better to dive in the deep end, then you won’t be scared. What I didn’t realize is it’s scary every time.”