The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival will present its 35th MainStage season production of Romeo and Juliet at the High Point Theatre Sept. 9-30.
One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, Romeo and Juliet is among his most widely read and performed. The production, directed by Steve Umberger, uses Shakespeare’s original text in a contemporary setting and features a multi-ethnic cast of 20.
“Romeo and Juliet is far more current than you might expect from a play written more than 400 years ago,” Umberger says. “In this era of clashing cultures, both at home and abroad, what could be more timely than ‘two households, both alike in dignity’ who cannot lay down their differences until they have erupted in deadly and irreparable consequences?
“This play has remained timely because we see something of ourselves somewhere in the characters’ struggles and decisions – regardless of whether we're watching from the vantage point of England in Elizabethan times, Venice during the Renaissance, America during the Civil Rights Era or the current Arab Spring of the Middle East,” Umberger says.
The production marks a return to the NCShakes MainStage for Umberger, who directed the 2010 production of The Tempest. He has directed and produced for theatres around the country including Barter Theatre, Riverside Theatre, An Appalachian Summer Festival, Florida Studio Theatre, Flat Rock Playhouse and Charlotte Repertory Theatre, of which he was founder and artistic director. Umberger also helped found NCShakes’ affiliate company Festival Stage of Winston-Salem, now in its third season.
Umberger has assembled a cast and artistic staff of both local and nationally known actors and craftspeople. The cast is headlined by Sheldon Best as Romeo and Lauren Sowa as Juliet. Best has performed with numerous New York and regional theatres, and recently guest-starred on CBS’ Person of Interest. Sowa is the resident artist at The Shakespeare Forum in New York whose recent credits include We’re Drunk/This is the End at The Old Vic in London, as part of the T.S. Eliot U.S./UK Exchange.
Forrest McClendon, a 2011 Tony Award-nominee for The Scottsboro Boys, plays Friar Lawrence, a pivotal ally of the young lovers. The Nurse, Juliet’s confidant, is played by Darrie Lawrence, who appeared as Sister Aloysius in the national tour of John Michael Shanley’s Doubt. Rounding out the principal cast are Graham Smith as Capulet and Gayton Scott as Lady Capulet. Smith, an NCShakes and Charlotte Repertory veteran, is currently a company member at People’s Light & Theatre Company (Philadelphia). He last appeared for NCShakes as the title role in 2008’s King Lear. Scott has numerous Broadway, regional and film credits, including the 2003 Broadway revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters and directed by Sam Mendes.
The company includes: Dan Bound-Black (Benvolio), Courtney M. McClellan (Lady Montague), Andre Minkins (Montague), Jim French (Tybalt), Kenneth De Abrew (Escalus, Friar John), Christopher Ryan (Paris) and J. Hernandez (Mercutio). Participating in the NCShakes/UNC Greensboro Acting Internship Program are: Cameron Prevatte (Gregory, Ensemble), Cameron Bass (Petruchio, Ensemble), Patrick Ball (Samson, Ensemble), Adam Kampouris (Abram, Ensemble), Benjamin David Apple (Balthasar), Phillip Marcus Wright (Peter, Ensemble) and Kendra Woodfolk (Woman, Ensemble).
Among the artistic staff are a number of current and past faculty members at local universities, including scenic designer Mark Pirolo (UNCSA), fight choreographer Dale Girard (UNCSA), dramaturg Jim Casey (High Point University) and vocal and text coach Leah Elyce Roy (Wake Forest University). Several NCShakes veterans return, including production stage manager Audrey M. Brown, costume designer Bob Croghan, sound designer Fred Story and lighting designer Eric Winkenwerder.
To mark the company’s 35th season, NCShakes has reduced ticket prices for all sections, and will continue to offer discounted rates for students and seniors. For the first time, NCShakes also offers a buy one/get one free offer for educators at any level through college (present faculty or staff ID at the box office). Individual tickets range from $10-$30, with special prices for the final dress rehearsal on Sept. 9 and for five preview performances. Tickets are available through the High Point Theatre Box Office at www.highpointtheatre.comor 336-877-3001.
Previews take place Thursday, Sept. 13 through Sunday, Sept. 16, and on Thursday, Sept. 20. Opening night is Friday, Sept. 21. All evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The performances on Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 also offer “pay what you can” admission for any seats that are still available one hour before curtain (cash or check only).
Group rates are available for general, senior and student groups of 10 or more. For information on group rates or booking a SchoolFest matinee, contact the NCShakes Administrative Offices at 336-841-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the production, NCShakes plans a number of educational and entertainment events leading up to and throughout the production, including the Progressive Actor Dinner on Aug. 24, Shakespeare Slams at area coffee shops, the popular Classics in Context talks with North Carolina Scholars, and the new Weekend Getaway package for Sept. 28-30, the final weekend of the production. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.ncshakes.org or call 336-841-2273.
For further information about the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, call 336-841-2273 or visit www.NCShakes.org . For further information about affiliate company Festival Stage of Winston-Salem, call 336-841-2273 or visit www.FestivalStage.org.