Pop Filter Hot Pick: Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks asks, are you a Montague or a Capulet?
Why you should go:
Experience literature's most famous love story with a very big twist. During weekends in September, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks
(PSIP) is staging eight free matinee performances
of Romeo and Juliet
in three Citiparks (Frick, Allegheny Commons West and Arsenal)--with a refreshingly unexpected dose of audience participation.
How does it work? When you arrive to see the play, be prepared to choose sides--literally! Audiences will either follow the Capulets (Juliet) or the Montagues (Romeo), to encounter a new spin on the legendary 16th-century tragedy about two star-crossed lovers and their feuding families. Experiencing the entire play en plein air, and as the action progresses, the audience--and the leading lovers--will reunite for the pair's scenes together.
Altering audiences' sense of place, plot and time in a unique theatrical way, the production encourages direct engagement with the Bard's tragic masterpiece, while also incorporating the natural setting of the parks into the drama.
Director Helen M. Meade, a PSIP veteran who also directed the company's production of Twelfth Night
--has uniquely staged Romeo and Juliet’s stories simultaneously, a first for the local arts organization. Throughout the performance, theater-goers will sit on blankets or chairs and move about as the action proceeds around the park, involving the audience in an immediate way.
Gone are the days of stiff Middle Ages-influenced presentations of the Bard. Meade describes PSIP's shows as "rough and tumble.” Artistic director Jennifer Tober explains: “Our productions are energetic, in your face, and the performers make the language come alive in a way that even small kids get it. We often, in fact, have kids--and adults--become so involved in the action that they talk back to the actors."
Romeo and Juliet
opens on Sat., Aug. 31st and Sun., Sept. 1st, in Frick Park (Beechwood Blvd. and Nicholson St. in Squirrel Hill). The innovative production marks Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks' 9th season of providing free outdoor classical productions in the city. The company's summer shows annually attract about 1,500 patrons to the city's parks for outdoor plays.
The play stars Andrew Miller and Danielle Powell as the star-crossed lovers; Jeffrey Chips as the Prince; Michael Mykita and Elizabeth Farina as Lord and Lady Capulet; Mike Magliocca as Count Paris; and Yvonne Hudson as Juliet's Nurse. The young men of Verona include Adam Rutledge as Tybalt, Charles Beikert as Mercutio, and Bradford Sadler as Benvolio. Tonya Lynn and Gretchen Breslawski are multi-cast in supporting roles.
Making his PSIP debut as the fateful Friar Lawrence is veteran actor Ron Siebert, who has worked professionally in 60 theaters across the US, appeared on Broadway with James Earl Jones in The Iceman Cometh
, and acted in dozens of daytime dramas and national TV programs.
Costumer and production designer Lisa Leibering--who served as costumer for PSIP’s 2012 production of The Tempest
--has outfitted the play's characters as though they have "sprung from the woods," using the natural setting of the parks to enhance the action. The play's fight choreography is directed by Tonya Lynn, who has appeared in and choreographed for the company since its inception.
Want to go behind the scenes? Donate
$25 or more by August 31st, to receive an invitation to PSIP's special post-opening show reception on August 31st at Murray Avenue Grill, featuring drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and the chance to mingle with the cast and crew.
Go grab a blanket, a thermos and the entire family, head to the park, and get ready to follow the House of Capulet or the House of Montague!
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