Music in the Forest in the Forest

The Baron’s Men prides itself on incorporating period music into as many of our shows as possible. TBM newcomer Travis Hagan composed a new version of one of the songs from As You Like It, “Lover and His Lass” based on research that combines elements of three extant versions of the song.

To hear it for yourself, come see us out at The Curtain Theatre, weekends through April 22! Tickets available online at

photo by Charles Wilson

When Mike called to offer me a part in As You Like It, I was suddenly struck with an incredible sense of purpose, and I was anxious to get started as quickly as I could. Two roles: wrestler and accompanist. The former would call for a significant portion of dialogue in the opening scene and stage combat shortly thereafter (stage combat?!). In middle school, wrestling was all about the “Attitude Era” (or NWO, if you were a WCW fan) and attempting to reenact jacknife powerbombs in the living room (much to the chagrin of my poor mother). The latter would involve taking my one true passion in life–music–and bringing it to a stage with a unique audience and purpose, unlike any other kind of musical performance I have been involved with to date. When I was a kid, playing guitar was all about learning power chords and finding the coolest effect pedals and jamming Bush songs at full volume in a garage with my friends. Now, more than 20 years later, these concepts are taking on an entirely new meaning in my life — I am somehow incorporating them into…Shakespeare?

I began learning to play the guitar when I was ten years old. I took group lessons on Wednesday nights at a local community college and eventually went on to take private lessons with the same instructor. We focused primarily on classical guitar styles, but I believe the first song I learned to play all the way through was “Blackbird” by the Beatles. During this time, I was using my mother’s nylon-string guitar. When it became clear to my parents that I would not be putting down the guitar any time soon, they helped me to buy my first electric guitar, and I started taking modern rock guitar lessons at Brook Mays. From there, it was a journey of finding which chords were used to invoke certain emotions, and which effects were used to create all of the sounds on my favorite records.

Over time, this evolved into a home recording hobby that I still maintain today. While I am no rockstar, I do occasionally make soundtracks for short films by the company, Spiceworks. Also, currently, I am working on an album from the perspective of my dog, Chuck (yes, my dog). He raps and sings and “writes the music” — essentially, I am trying to capture what the world must be like in his head if it were somehow transferred to recorded media.

It is sort of ironic, however, that for my role as accompanist in As You Like It, after 23 years of going through various phases and learning to appreciate all different styles of instrumentation, I am now returning to a more classical form. I bring only a nylon-string guitar to rehearsal — no cables, no amplifiers, no synthesizers, no reverb or distortion pedals — just the guitar. In a way, this makes every chosen chord all the more vital because the sound cannot be manipulated in any way before it reaches the listener. This has been a distinct challenge, but it has also been liberating in a way because there is a certain freedom involved with putting music to songs that are so old. For starters, no one can prove that what we come up with is not what should be played! And because the arrangement is so stripped down, there is an immediate authenticity to it that is sometimes lost when six guys are on stage all blaring different sound effects over one another.

In all, I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to grace the stage with The Baron’s Men this month. It feels really good to be challenged, while also using what I know to help a production become greater than the sum of its individual parts, including myself.

-Travis Hagan