Davidson Theatre to Present “Romeo & Juliet” Starting Oct. 22

The Davidson College Theatre Department invites the public to a bold, original production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on the weekends of October 22 and 29.

Performances will be in Duke Family Performance Hall Friday, Oct. 21. at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, at 8:15 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. General admission is $15, $11 for seniors and $6 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 704-894-2135 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, or online at www.davidson.edu/tickets. The play is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Director Mark Sutch, assistant professor of theatre, says Davidson’s production of the timeless tale of star-crossed lovers and the tragedies that befall them will stand out through its special attention to creative storytelling and non-traditional staging.

Maggie Birgel ’14 (Juliet) and Brandon Smalls ’12 (Romeo) will both tackle Shakespeare for the first time in this production and are excited to give these iconic characters their own unique spin. “It’s a special challenge, since everyone already has an opinion of the story and text,” says Birgel. “But the most important thing is to avoid playing the stereotype and to make the story our own.”

Sutch added, “They both have a great understanding of how to relate to this story and live out these characters’ deepest wants and needs, which is the most crucial thing in any play.”

Sutch believes what makes Romeo and Juliet the most revered love story of all time has little to do with its historical setting. Therefore, the Davidson production will avoid all typically applied Shakespearean styles and mannerisms and focus purely on Shakespeare’s compelling text and beautiful story. In doing so, the production will create a world for the play free from any time period, highlighting the stark contrast between Romeo and Juliet’s pure, organic love and the artificiality of world around them.

“What makes their instantaneous love so powerful?” Sutch asked. “Love becomes their alternative to existing in a rigid, man-made world that’s far gone from our natural wants and impulses as human beings. They see a love in each other that provides freedom from the manufactured world, and they realize that this love is far more honest thananything they’ve ever known before.”

The production will also bring the audience face to face with this world through use of the physical set. Set designer Joe Gardner, professor of theatre, is eliminating the first few rows of seating in Duke Family Performance Hall to extend the stage beyond its normal boundaries. Multiple platforms and bridges will jut across the open pit and out into the audience. Sutch says the intention is to place the performance into the laps of the audience members, producing a greater sense of overall intimacy and connection. Guest artist lighting designer David Fillmore will use “larger than life” lighting to express the huge stakes and heavy emotions encompassed in scenes throughout the play.

The show will also feature numerous actors’ talents with musical instruments, and Sutch has built opportunities for live music to be played by actors in the show, rather than by using prerecorded sound cues.

Romeo and Juliet contains a large number of violent fight scenes that require preparation and practice. To master the art of stage combat, Sutch has enlisted the professional help of Dale Girard, a fight instructor at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. Smalls, who plays the role of Romeo, commented, “We have to work diligentlyat making the combat look convincing while making it safe, especially since we will be working on the extended stage with rapiers that are potentially dangerous. The close proximity of the sword fights should be very exciting for audience members.”

In addition to the scheduled productions, the Theatre Department will introduce area youth to Romeo and Juliet during a special matinee performance specifically for middle and high school students. Some of the actors will also offer Shakespeare workshops in nearby schools so students can interact with the actors before they see the show.

In addition to Birgel and Smalls in the title roles, the Romeo and Juliet cast includes Davidson students Ryan Chiles, Kara Copeland, Dinah Decker, AudreyGyurgyik, Benjamin Heimfeld, Christa Johnson, Amelia Lumpkin, Nick McGuire,Allen Rigby, Madison Rigger, and Chance Ruder.