Shakespeare, just like the ol’ days

ARLINGTON — Five actors are playing all the parts in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” complete with sword fighting and vials of poison, at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center Friday, May 16.

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:00am
  • Life

Leilani Aileene Saper plays Juliet and Brandon Petty is Romeo in the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” to be presented 7 p.m.

ARLINGTON — Five actors are playing all the parts in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” complete with sword fighting and vials of poison, at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center Friday, May 16.

“I believe we may be the first professional acting group to take that stage,” said Jeff Fickes, of Seattle Shakespeare Company.

The production is a pared down 90-minute version of Shakespeare’s classic tale presented by young professional actors with the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s road troupe.

The cast features Leilani Aileene Saper as Juliet and Brandon Petty as Romeo, with three ensemble players who fill in for the many rolls: Austin Farwell, Ryan Higgins and Evan Hernandez.

The greatest love story ever told, this swashbuckling romance features star-crossed lovers in the city of Verona, when it was led by two families with hatred so old that no one remembered its cause. In the midst of hate and senseless violence, passionate young love emerges. When Romeo and Juliet defy their parents and marry with a plot to run away together, every effort to escape is thwarted.

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a perfectly constructed play,” said SSC Artistic Director Stephanie Shine.

“It starts, really, as a romantic comedy, until about halfway through, when children start dying. It’s that turn in the middle that changes everything for us. There is also delicious anticipation, because we are told in Shakespeare’s opening chorus what’s going to happen, and yet we have to sit there and try in our hearts to stop it from happening, and see all the ways that it could stop, and still experience both the beauty and the agony that is Romeo and Juliet.

“It’s timeless. You could see the play many times during your life because it speaks to you from where you are.”

The play will be presented in the BPAC earlier in the day for students of the school district, according to George Mount, manager of the road troupe. He said that it was a teacher at Haller Middle School who made the Arlington performance possible.

“I think her name is Greer Verrier,” Mount said.

Mount came to SSC through a merger with another Shakespeare company, Wooden O Theater, which was doing Shakespeare plays outdoors around Puget Sound.

“The SSC performs statewide,” he said, adding that “Romeo and Juliet” has been as far afield as Okanogan to the east and Port Angeles to the west.

“We can perform in any facility, from a high school gymnasium to your beautiful PAC,” Mount said, noting it’s a classic tradition, touring from one production to the next.

“In the old days, if they made enough money at a show, they would stay in the local inn,” he said. Mount described the traveling program as a sort of actor boot camp. The young actors are scheduled to present the play at Shorecrest the night before Arlington and in the morning for students of Arlington School District before the Friday night show.

“Then we’re done until Tuesday when we’ll go to Monroe,” Mount said. They keep the sets simple, with a few flats, some swords, a vial of poison and a ladder for the balcony scene.

The young professionals have presented this show 40 times and they will continue through the end of the year, before starting “Othello” for next year.

Seattle Shakespeare Company is the Puget Sound region’s only year-round professional, classical theater dedicated to producing the works of Shakespeare.

“Romeo and Juliet” starts at 7 p.m. at Byrnes Performing Arts Center, at 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd., in Arlington. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students 18 and younger, on sale at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center and through their Web site at www.byrnesperformingarts.org, or call 360-618-6321.

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