Chicago Shakes announces Romeo and Juliet cast

Chicago Shakespeare Theater Announces Cast for

Opening of the 2010/11 Season

Romeo and Juliet

Staged by World-Renowned Australian Director Gale Edwards

September 15 through November 21, 2010

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) on Navy Pier opens the 2010/11 Subscription Series with an exhilarating new production of William Shakespeare‘s iconic Romeo and Juliet. Set against a violent world of excess where families take their rivalries to the streets, the production will be staged by world-renowned Australian Director Gale Edwards, whose work has been seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in theaters across America. Edwards has assembled a talented ensemble for her CST directorial debut, including Dora Award winner Jeff Lillico and Joy Farmer-Clary in the title roles.

Pure and hot, passionate and true—in Romeo and Juliet, the feverish intensity of youth explodes on CST’s stage in the most celebrated love story of all time. A romance ignites in young Romeo and Juliet as the vicious rivalry of their families, the Montagues and the Capulets, hurls their fates to destiny. “What I love about American actors is they are very bold, they’re very adventurous,” Director Gale Edwards says of staging Romeo and Juliet in her Chicago Shakespeare debut. “So you can actually find an exciting physicality for a production. In Romeo and Juliet, of course, that’s very important. It’s a youthful story about young people. It’s a physical story.”

Romeo and Juliet, a timeless tale of young love in a violent world, has been studied in classrooms and performed on stages around the world in the four hundred years since its creation. In just the past half century, several memorable incarnations of the play will be most familiar to audiences, from Franco Zeffirelli‘s classic 1968 film to Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 modern cinematic adaptation Romeo + Juliet, and the stage and film musical adaptation West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Gale Edwards insists that her new production at Chicago Shakespeare “be brought to life in the now, for this audience, and this place and this time,” electrifying the Bard’s classic poetry with a contemporary immediacy and setting her Romeo and Juliet apart from all others.

Gale Edwards has received numerous national and international accolades, including a Sydney Critics Award and an International Emmy Award for her 1996 London revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. As one of Australia’s most accomplished theater directors, Edwards has staged productions for all the major companies in the country and around the world, including a 1995 production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Edwards’ additional credits include productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.), English National Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Melbourne Theatre Company, Opera Australia, Sydney Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre Company and New Zealand Arts Festival. Edwards has served as associate director of both the Melbourne Theatre Company and the South Australian Theatre Company.

Joining Edwards for Romeo and Juliet are some of Chicago’s most highly regarded classical performers, as well as some outstanding newcomers to Chicago Shakespeare’s stage. Making their CST debuts as the star-crossed lovers are Jeff Lillico andJoy Farmer-Clary. Lillico, who recently garnered a Dora Mavor Moore Award from the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts for his turn as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza, has numerous credits at the Shaw Festival Theatre and Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Farmer-Clary’s credits include productions at Lincoln Center and the Tony Award-winning Old Globe. CST veterans returning for Edwards’ production include: Ora Jones, last seen in Twelfth Night, as Nurse; Brendan Marshall-Rashid, who delivered Richmond’s memorable final soliloquy in Richard III, as Paris; Judy Blue as Lady Capulet; Steve Haggard as Benvolio; and ensemble member Brandon Ford. Also returning is David Lively as Friar Laurence, who previously played King Henry IV in CST’s Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, marking the Theater’s debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2006. The cast for Edwards’ production is rounded out by Zach Appelman as Tybalt, Kenn E. Head as Escalus/Apothecary, John Judd as Lord Capulet, Tom McElroy as Lord Montague, Lily Mojekwu as Lady Montague, Ariel Shafir as Mercutio, Scott Westerman as Peter and ensemble members James Elly, Adam Gutkin, Jonathan Hicks, Ben Huth, Jude Roch and Marvin Quijada.

The production team for Romeo and Juliet includes award-winning Scenic Designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, whose design credits at CST include Funk It Up About Nothin’ and Sunday in the Park with George, in addition to productions at major regional theaters, including Goodman Theatre and Guthrie Theater. Also returning to Chicago Shakespeare for Edwards’ production is Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic, who received a Jeff Award for Outstanding Costume Design for her work on Chicago Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors in 2008 and designed costumes for the Broadway productions of Desire Under the Elms and August: Osage County. The production team for Romeo and Juliet also includes Jeff Award-winning Lighting DesignerJohn Culbert, five-time Jeff Award-winning Original Music and Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, Wig and Makeup Designer Melissa Veal, Properties Master Chelsea Meyers and Fight Director Rick Sordelet.

Romeo and Juliet runs September 15 through November 21, 2010, in the Courtyard Theater. Tickets are $44–$75 and may be purchased by calling Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or by visiting the Theater’s website .

Programs in conjunction with performance of Romeo and Juliet include:

  • Pre•Ambles: Half-hour introductory lectures on Romeo and Juliet presented by scholars will take place on Saturdays at 2 p.m. on Sept. 25, Oct. 2, Oct. 9, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13; on Sundays at 1 p.m. from Sept. 26 through Oct. 31; and at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7. Admission is free and reservations are not required.
  • Talk-Backs: Post-show discussions follow each Wednesday 1 p.m. performance. Admission is free. No reservations are required.
  • “Access Shakespeare” Performances: The duo sign-interpreted performance for patrons with hearing impairments will be held on Friday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m. Patrons should request the sign-interpreted section when purchasing tickets in advance. The audio-described performance for patrons with visual impairments will be held on Thursday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m. Patrons should reserve a headset when purchasing tickets in advance. All “Access Shakespeare” tickets are $27–35.

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