|On the threshold of opening night, “Romeo and Juliet” director Dan Hiester settled into quiet reflection on this year’s Shakespeare in the Sangres extraordinary production. “This is Shakespeare coming into full maturity,” he mused; “he’s 40, 41 years old, an established and respected man of the theater, he’s written, produced and performed in farce, comedy, histories, tragedy…you get the sense that in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ he’s feeling, ‘I can do anything!’ He mixes genres here, beginning as comedy, then bowing to tragedy.”
Hiester, in his 11th season as Visiting Artist with the Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts, is pleased with the way in which local performers have given themselves over to the energetic flow of this drama, one he describes as “touching on cosmic and personal questions and issues that are and have ever been relevant.” Modestly, he noted that he has put over a hundred hours into adapting the original script “for this particular show, this particular time, this particular audience.” And rather immodestly but with awesome respect, he calls this process “collaborating with Shakespeare!”
Attentive to so many dynamics in the process of adaptation—the control of drive and pace, the back story of plot and character, for example—perhaps his most intriguing insight is that “Time is the biggest ‘character’ here, along with Fate, Conflict, and Love.” Each is distinctively arrayed across a spectrum of possibilities.
Time is sensed as both a reality for the future and planning, as well as the context for the press of events, where, as Hiester points out, “reality gets in the way.” Fate, or mortality if you will, gives life meaning and purpose, in either direction—the passivity of giving in to circumstances, or the active determination to be creative within life and move it along. Conflict arises with the feud at the heart of the classic story, adding tension to the dramatic movement. And Love, ah Love. A truth about Love is that it can, as in “Romeo and Juliet,” be dangerous, and not simply be the pure, redeeming, wonderful relationship of lovers.
“‘Romeo and Juliet’ may be the best known title in the world,” Hiester notes, “so the first question is ‘Why do it again?’” His answer to that challenging question was not spoken aloud, but tacit in his reflections on the mastery of craft in the text, and the complexity, energy, and flow of events.
One demanding aspect of this production is the acting space itself, expanding out into the amphitheater park from the grotto cave of the stage. An alley of grass will separate the audience into two sides of seating, and the dramatic action will sometimes occur there. “It’s a very different movement, a very different scene by scene flow,” Hiester observes, “where the ensemble is more exposed, and interactive with the audience; the performers have adjusted to that quite well.”
The fifteen performers by the way are: Riley Capp as Romeo; Holly Wenger as Juliet; Hannah May LePoidevin as Benvolio; Michael Batson as Mercutio; Alden Williams as Tybalt; Allen Brunke as Capulet; Elliot Jackson as Lady Capulet; Jim Fitch as Montague and Apothecary; Cynthia Corella as Lady Montague and Paris’ Page; Bev Allen as Nurse; Justin Reno as Paris; Clifton Loucks as Friar Lawrence; Dan Hiester as Chorus Prince; Nicole Parsons as Nicoletta; Jerry Heisig as Giovanni.
The production crew includes two of the summer interns and another cast member also acting in the performance: Hannah LePoidevin as scenic designer and painter, and Alden Williams in sound design, along with Michael Batson. Allie Neas is the do-it-all stage manager, assisted by Cynthia Corella; Scotti Foster is the technical director, assisted by performer Clifton Loucks. Margaret Linderer has provided the stunning, lush costumes.
Performance times are tonight, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. The identical schedule is repeated next week, June 22 through 25, for an eight performance run.
Individual tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for active military and students 18 and under, and $5 for kids. Groups of eight or more can book a block of tickets for a 10 percent discount. Some church groups, for example, are planning to attend Sunday matinees, and to discuss some of the religious issues of the drama afterwards with performance and production members.
Further information is available at 783-3004, and online at www.jonestheater.com
– W.A. Ewing