Tag Archives: Desert Rose Theatre

“Romeo and Juliet” on Valley stages

Megan Wiles (left) as Juliet and Christian Barillas as Romeo in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

I flew with my daughter Lizabeth to Las Vegas on Wednesday, where we snagged a rental car and made the drive to Cedar City, Utah for several days at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. We’ll be seeing three Shakespeare plays, including “Romeo & Juliet,” plus three additional works. It’s a great time to hit the festival because this is their 50th anniversary season and they’re offering a “Hot August Nights” special through August 15.

Not to worry. Neil Diamond won’t be in the house to swivel his hips in Elizabethan garb, and it really isn’t all that hot in Cedar City these days. Their highs have been mirroring our lows lately, which means we’ll be able to break out the sweaters for events after dark. I’m hoping Valley families whose children have seen or performed in Shakespeare’s works will consider a bit of Shakespearean travel before the school year is off and running.

Both youth and adults will be performing in a Theater Works production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Peoria, which opens their 2011-12 season with an Aug 19-Sept 4 run. It’s being directed by Theater Works artistic director Robyn Allen, who told me recently that the work is set in “contemporary Verona.” That’s northern Italy, not the Verona township once a part of Newark, New Jersey.

Colette D/Antona as Nurse, Meg Sprinkle as Juliet, Matt Zimmerer as Capulet and Amy Serafin as lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet at Theater Works (Photo by Bo Allen)

“The setting, costumes and sound are all contemporary,” says Allen, who feels the approach makes Shakespeare’s work more accessible. “When you can relate to the characters,” she explains, “the language comes easier.” Shakespeare experts agree that his works are better experienced aloud rather than read in silence, so anytime you can actually hear his works during live performance you’re more likely to ‘get it.’

“In Shakespeare’s day,” adds Allen, “what they wore was contemporary.” She muses that Shakespeare didn’t have his actors “running around in togas” — which is certainly true, but nonetheless fun to imagine. “I’m intrigued,” she says, “by what Shakespeare would think today.” Would he wonder, Allen wonders, why everyone was pretending they were still in long-ago time.

“There’s already poetry, and a struggle,” reflects Allen, who feels a return to Elizabethan times isn’t essential to conveying the story. Allen recalls doing “Romeo and Juliet” more than a decade ago with in inner city high school, and says the play has “lots of topics students can relate to.”

Sam Wiseman as Mercutio, Phillip Herrington as Romeo and Joseph Cannon as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet at Theater Works (Photo by Bo Allen)

Allen says “there’s been no full-scale production of Shakespeare in the West Valley for twenty years,” so she’s concerned that some kids have never experienced one of his works. She describes “Romeo and Juliet” as one of Shakespeare’s most accessible plays for youth, and is delighted that their “Romeo and Juliet” ensemble includes “lots of teens.”

To those who fear that Shakepeare’s works are too difficult for youth to grasp, Allen offers the following advice: “Don’t be afraid of the words.” Allen notes that they did “three weeks of table work” to help the younger cast members really understand Shakespeare and this particular play.

For folks who feel Shakespeare has little appeal to youth, she shares this: “This play asks meaningful questions about hot topics.” Think love, loyalty, discrimination, deceit and more. I’m told an updated version of “Dallas” is headed to television, but trust me when I tell you that even the offspring of J.R. and Bobby Ewing can’t hold a candle to Shakespeare in the love, loss and lies department.

Allen notes that study guides will be available for teachers who bring their students to “Romeo and Juliet” at Theater Works. She also notes that there’s plenty of Shakespeare to go around, encouraging families to see other productions as well. “Southwest Shakespeare does fantastic work,” says Allen — who notes that she saw every production Southwest Shakespeare Company of Mesa did last season.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents Romeo and Juliet in January 2012

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs “Romeo and Juliet” Jan 5-21, 2012. This production is set in Renaissance Italy. Desert Rose Theatre performs “Romeo and Juliet” in Scottsdale Sept. 10 and 17. I’d love to see the work set in Scottsdale, but I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon. The Utah Shakespeare Festival production runs through Sept 3 so you should hustle if you want to take that in as well. I think it’s great fun to see multiple productions of the same work.

Remember too that the musical “West Side Story,” a modern twist on “Romeo and Juliet,” comes to ASU Gammage in late September. And that a 50th anniversary edition of the movie “West Side Story,” which won 10 Academy Awards, makes its Blu-ray debut Nov 15. “West Side Story” sets the “Romeo and Juliet” story in 1950s New York.

A touring production of West Side Story, a work based on Romeo and Juliet, opens at ASU Gammage next month (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The collector’s set from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment includes lots of “extras” including information of the film’s legacy, song-specific commentary by lyricist Stephen Sondheim, a “music machine” that “allows viewers to go straight into their favorite musical numbers,” memories, trailers and a “storyboard to film comparison montage.” Even something called “Pow! The Dances of West Side Story” featuring analyses of the film’s famous dance sequences from cast members and contemporary filmmakers, dancers and choreographers.

Check out this collector's set of the Academy Award-winning West Side Story film

Lizabeth is lucky to be heading off to college in a few weeks. No one really wants to watch me cha cha through the hallway, or hear me sing “I Feel Pretty” dressed in a dingy kitchen apron. Teens sometimes mistake these things for mere annoyances, but we middle-agers know better. How do you think all those nests get so empty to begin with?

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read the “Romeo and Juliet” study guide from Theatre Works

Coming up: From costumes to cabaret in Cedar City, Broadway casting agent meets Lifetime “Dance Moms,” Honk if you love Hans!, An affirmation tale

Pardon my Pygmalion

Here’s a little something for those of you seeking just the right name for your baby boy: Pygmalion. The word, which has Greek origins, means “King of Cyprus” — which rather reminds me of Sara Bareilles’ “King of Anything.”

For others, the name Pygmalion conjures thoughts of playwright George Bernard Shaw – whose play titled “Pygmalion” references a Greek myth recounted by Ovid in which a sculptor who loathes women falls in love with his own statue of a beautiful woman.

Most know a later version of this story — the one told in the 1956 musical “My Fair Lady,” which is based on Shaw’s 1912 work. It’s the tale of a commoner, Eliza Doolittle, who undergoes a phonetics makeover at the hands of professor Henry Higgins.

Theater League brings “My Fair Lady” to two Valley stages this season — Mesa Arts Center Jan 31-Feb 1, 2012 and the Orpheum in Phoenix Feb 16-19, 2012. It features book, music and lyrics by Lerner and Loewe. Think “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

In his preface to “Pygmalion,” Shaw disparages the language skills of his peers. “The English,” Shaw writes, “have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.”

I suspect the Irish playwright, who lived from 1856 to 1950, would have plenty to say about most states deciding to drop cursive writing from the school curriculum. Blogging might take a beating as well.

Mesa Community College presents “Pygmalion” Jan 27-Feb 4, 2012 at Theatre Outback, located on the MCC campus. It’s one of four theater works in their “Theatre Arts and Film 2011-2012 Mainstage Season” — which includes some truly fascinating fare.

Those of you eager to experience Shaw’s work have another option as Desert Rose Theatre performs “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” July 21-30 at St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church in Scottsdale. Each 7:30pm show is preceeded by a 7pm “pre-show chat” and followed by a “fun Q & A with the actors.”

Desert Rose offers this summary of the play: William Shakespeare is out on the town to meet his Dark Lady, the woman who inspired his sonnets. But a sleepwalking figure interupts his tryst. Who is this new, mysterious and fascinating woman with regal bearing? Could she end up his new muse?

Tickets for “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” are just $10, and the fine folks at Brown Paper Tickets note a minimum age of 8 to attend. This production features Chris Michael Dennis, Diane Senffner, Kristina Rogers and Dave Edmunds.

George Bernard Shaw received the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature, and you can learn more about his work by visiting the Nobel Prize website. The Nobel Committee is currently reviewing productions nominated for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

If you’re having twins, by the way, consider coupling the names Pygmalion and Hamlet. I owe that suggestion to my daughter Jennifer, though I think it might be a better choice for a pair of puppies you call “Pyg” and “Ham.”

– Lynn

Coming up: What would Robin Hood do?