TN Shakespeare Co. to Present ROMEO AND JULIET at GPAC, 1/28 & 30

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TN Shakespeare Co. to Present ROMEO AND JULIET at GPAC, 1/28 & 30

Tennessee Shakespeare Company brings a sweeping, youthful, full-cast production of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the Duncan-Williams Performance Hall at Germantown Performing Arts Center on January 28 and 30 at 7:00 pm. Opening night on January 28 will include a complimentary post-show reception with the actors.

Directed by Stephanie Shine, Romeo and Juliet is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. This marks the first time in TSC's young history that it has been nationally-recognized with NEA funding.

Children 17 years and younger will be admitted FREE for both performances when accompanied by a paying, attending guardian. Limit: four per guardian.

The professional, multi-ethnic cast of actors and designers from around the country also will feature a six-actor ensemble from the theatre department at the University of Memphis.

The production is part of TSC's larger social and educational investment in its community: The Romeo and Juliet Project. Piloted in 2012, funded locally by ArtsMemphis to expand into Memphis schools in 2013, and now funded by the NEA and ArtsMemphis for 2014, the Project will send TSC's actor-teachers into Carver, Booker T. Washington, Ridgeway, Kirby, and Bartlett High Schools to teach every Freshman the play through an interactive, three-day anti-violence residency through February.

Following both public performances on January 28 and 30, a special community forum with audiences, actors, and director will be moderated by TSC founding member, education author, and Hutchison Middle School Head Barry Gilmore to explore together the many situations in the play that implore us to look within ourselves for social remedy.

The Project will also offer three morning student matinees of Romeo and Juliet for Mid-South elementary, middle, and high school students. More than 2,000 students are expected to participate. To book your school, teachers and administrators may call TSC Education Manager Slade Kyle at (901) 759-0620.

The title roles in Romeo and Juliet will be played by Seattle-based actors, and real-life couple, Rachel Brun and Joey Shaw.

Joey Shaw most recently played Menecrates in Seattle Shakespeare Company's Antony and Cleopatra. In the past year he played Tybalt in Shakespeare Walla Walla's Romeo and Juliet and designed sound for their It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, both directed by Stephanie Shine. University of Washington credits: Hair (Claude), Romeo and Juliet (Romeo), Macbeth (Macduff), and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Mitch).

Rachel Brun recently appeared at Seattle's Town Theatre in Domesticity and in Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant with Book-It Repertory Theatre. University of Washington credits: Stone Cold Dead Serious (Sharice), Macbeth (Lady Macduff), and Rough Magic (Miranda). Rachel appears as Gabrielle in the upcoming independent film, The Delicate Art of Bird Watching.

Returning to the TSC stage are Slade Kyle (Nurse, Tybalt), Cara McHugh (Lady Capulet), and Phil Darius Wallace* (Capulet, Apothecary). Performing for the first time with TSC are Isaac Anderson (Mercutio), Guillermo Jemmott (Benvolio), and Jamie Mann (Friar).

The University of Memphis ensemble includes Elizabeth Baines, Grace Bowers, Justin Burgess, Liz Kellicut, Matthew Nelson, and Joshua Tucker.

The design team includes the return of Bruce Bui's costumes with his associates Ashley Selberg and Haley Franklin, the properties of Kristen Greene, new fight choreography by Slade Kyle, and First Folio text consultancy by Neil Freeman in Vancouver. The scenic design is created by Los Angeles-based designer Elliot LaPlante, and the lighting design is created by Seattle-based Kent Cubbage.

"Romeo and Juliet contains the most breathtaking love scenes, the most riotous comedy, and the most heartbreaking sacrifice of young life of any of the plays, and all in one play," says director Shine, who also serves as TSC's Education Director. "It teaches us the most valuable lessons about the true evil of hate, the cleansing power of forgiveness, the necessity of bearing responsibility, and the freedom that accompanies truth.

"To lose young people to hate and violence is a punishment we feel too well in Memphis. Our daily news relays tragedies all too close to Romeo and Juliet. It is fitting that we use this play to introduce future generations to William Shakespeare and the great wisdom he offers. Maybe we can keep our children alive. It is fitting that the NEA is funding not only this production, but the three-day anti-violence residency that will partner with five Shelby County schools this year. One day, we may be able to serve all 40 public high schools in the county. Imagine the effect. And best of all, it is fitting we come together in the great numbers that performing at GPAC affords us so we may experience something together that may inspire us to create lasting change for our community."

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet first appeared on stage in 1595. He borrowed the story from a poem published in 1562 titled The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, written first in Italian by Bandell, then in English by Arthur Brooke. Shakespeare followed the poem's plot and used some of the same words for his dialogue.

As in all of the plays from which he borrows, his Romeo and Juliet is infused with deep humanity, new and unique characters, compacts the action into a few short days, and evolves the two young lovers into fully realized young people who build between them a love that is inclusive of their minds, spirits, and bodies. Until Shakespeare crafted his title characters for the stage, no other playwright had yet expressed so understandably the exhilaration, maturity, purity, and completeness of shared, young love.

Shakespeare also tells the entire story before his play begins - in his Prologue, written in 14-line sonnet form. What is popularly considered the greatest love story ever told is born in a world of rage. The ancient feud between the Capulet and Montague households infuses fair Verona with prejudice and hatred. No one ever says what started the violent feud, which prevents audiences from taking sides. Civilians are killing one another.

The only children of the houses of Montague and Capulet are teenagers Romeo and Juliet, and they are "star-cross'd." Fate is working against them, and these children will take their own lives because their love for one another cannot be requited in the world of violence their parents and ancestors have wrought. The suicides of Juliet and Romeo become the terrible sacrifice that is needed to end the rage. The children are unsavable, making the play a tragedy. But their deaths, and those of their young peers in the story, are remarkable for their timeless instruction to all ages.

"In response to violence, Romeo and Juliet offers us a great lesson in the power of individual choice, the freedom that truth brings, and, best of all, the hope for change," says Shine. "Romeo and Juliet shows us all what love and forgiveness can do to change a community for the better."

Stephanie Shine+ (Director) TSC directorial work includes It's a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play, Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, Southern Yuletide, Romeo and Juliet, and The Rebel Shakespeare and His Women. During her 18 years with Seattle Shakespeare Company, 13 as Artistic Director, she directed 17 productions, including The Threepenny Opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, and the lauded all-male Taming of the Shrew. A well-known actress in the Northwest, Stephanie has performed for Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, ACT, The Empty Space, Seattle Children's Theatre, Book-It Repertory Theatre, and Tacoma Actors Guild. Regionally, she appeared with the Oregon and New Jersey Shakespeare Festivals, Houston's Alley Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, and NYC's Theatre for a New Audience. Her Shakespeare roles include Juliet, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Regan, Feste, Kate, Bianca, Dionyza, The Princess of France, Hero, Perdita, and The Chorus in Henry V.

+ Member of The Society of Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.

* Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

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