LaVoie as Rosalind disguises herself as a young man for the majority of the play in order to woo the man she loves.

Cotteril plays Duchess Freddie – a gender switch by director Rinda Frye of Shakespeare’s cruel Duke Frederick.

Playing a male without the clichés is a challenge. I have to toss preconceptions to make the role realistic, said LaVoie, a veteran of 10 Shakespeare productions with the Kentucky and Long Island Shakespeare Festivals.

Cotteril faces another challenge. While she is a nurturing mother of two daughters in real life, she has to become more like a Mafia don for the play, in which her character mistreats her daughter’s best friend, among others.

Then I have to switch character and voice totally in the closing scene as the sweet goddess Hymen (another gender switch by Frye), Cotteril said.

Frye comes to As You Like It having played Rosalind and Audrey in past productions of As You Like It, an experience she said she finds helpful in understanding the potential of a part.

I can be an advocate for the actor but I need to remain open for talented performers to bring in something I never thought of and to take the role in new direction, she explained.

As You Like It is the master’s thesis performance for both LaVoie and Cotteril, as they seek master of fine arts degrees in acting from UofL’s Department of Theatre Arts.

They are in a minority. Of the 100 or more hopefuls who audition each year for UofL’s graduate acting program – the only one offered by Kentucky colleges and universities – only a handful are accepted, according to Frye, associate professor of theatre arts and program director.

The masters program, she said, is a rigorous three-year training program that includes acting, voice, movement, script analysis and academic research.

Students have to perform every semester and are evaluated every year before being invited to return, she said.

In addition to a thesis performance, the candidate also must write a thesis reviewing the acting process and preparation and including outside research on theatre issues. A committee comprised of a thesis adviser, another faculty member and a qualified outside person reviews each thesis.

UofL theatre arts graduates live all over the United States, including in such competitive markets as New York and Los Angeles, and work in a variety of careers related to acting

(Editor’s Note: Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy will be performed Nov. 18-22 at 8 p.m. nightly plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 22. All performances will take place at the Thrust Theatre at 2314 S. Floyd Street. Individual show tickets are $12 for the general public, $8 for faculty, staff, students and senior citizens. For tickets and information, call 502-852-6814 or go online.