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TITG takes on Shakespeare with new director

A classic romantic comedy hits the stage this weekend

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO - Gavin Knittle, who landed in Forest Grove to attend Pacific University, is directing his first show at Theatre in the Grove.Gavin Knittle will make his directorial debut this weekend in Theatre in the Grove’s production of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

The 2013 Pacific University graduate jumped at the chance to direct the play and has even composed music for the show, putting both of his majors — theater and music — to good use.

“It was only three original songs,” he said. “I knew I could do it.”

Directing a cast of 16 — most of whom are older than him — is no problem for Knittle, who grew up in Portland loving the limelight and looking for attention on stage.

“And it only got worse at Pacific,” Knittle joked of his love of acting.

But among the other things he learned at Pacific, Knittle learned something about himself, too.

“I discovered that I am better at helping other actors give their best performances than I was at acting myself,” he said, during a break from painting sets for the show at TITG.

“I had good mentors,” he explained. “So I’ve grown up to be a fully functioning, mature and nurturing adult.”

That means he has plenty to give to his cast members, who range in age from 16-year-old Spencer Putnam in what is his first speaking role to several seasoned TITG actors, including Spencer’s father, Mark.

Set painting is not his talent, Knittle said, adding he is happy in this case to be taking direction from the set designer.

Knittle also lost one actor and had to find a replacement, and had to rehearse elsewhere due to scheduling conflicts on the TITG stage.

“The cast was so ready for the main stage,” he said. “They were outgrowing the rehearsal studio.”

Knittle said he employs a “rigorous warmup” before each rehearsal to make his actors stronger. The Tadashi Suzuki method uses lots of stomping, he said, and is challenging for both the body and the voice.

“As You Like It” is a romantic comedy whose many themes and lines are relevant today, Knittle said.Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO - Touchstone the clown played by Zachary Centers foolishly explains his idea of love to Rosalind, played by Kailea Saplan.

Featuring the famous speech, “All the world is a stage,” “As You Like It” is at once entertaining, hilarious and thought-provoking, reminding us of our shared human experiences, according to TITG promotional materials.

When “As You Like It” concludes, Knittle said he will pursue directing opportunities in some of his favorite Portland theater companies and will stay in the area until his wife, Lindsay Knittle-Partin, earns her degree in playwrighting from Pacific.

He plans to earn a master of fine arts in directing someday. 

“As You Like It” performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, for three weekends beginning Oct. 10.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (17 and under). The box office is open on Wednesdays 4 to 6 p.m. and one hour before each performance. Tickets may be purchased online anytime by visiting theatreinthegrove.org.

The theater is located at 2028 Pacific Ave. in Forest Grove. For information, call 503-359-5349.


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