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Hard Sparks' R & J & Z to Bring Blood, Guts and Zombies to the New Ohio Theatre, 4/1-18

The New Ohio Theatre + Hard Sparks present: R & J & Z, written by Melody Bates and directed by Joan Jubett, running April 1 - 18 at the New Ohio Theatre.

What if two of literature's most famous lovers got a second chance? R & J & Z starts with Act V of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and continues on, as the young couple navigates a world in which death isn't necessarily the end. Written in verse and set against the historical backdrop of Verona's plague, R & J & Z (the "z" stands for zombies), throws old and new characters together over the course of an apocalyptic and action-packed 24 hours. Equally inspired by Shakespeare and contemporary zombie films, R & J & Z pushes the boundaries of theatrical humor and horror. When everyone is dead and rising from the graves, the rules no longer apply.

"At the time Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet, most theatres were closed due to plague," says J.Stephen Brantley, artistic director of Hard Sparks. "If you look at the play from that angle -- that a huge part of the population was dead or dying -- it takes on a different tone."

R & J & Z is a classically structured Shakespearean comedy. Director Joan Jubett says, "Romeo And Juliet begins as a comedy and ends as a tragedy, but R & J & Z begins as a tragedy and ends as a comedy." Playwright Melody Bates, who also plays Juliet, notes that Shakespeare gave us the supernatural horror of Macbeth, the gore of Titus, the magic of Midsummer; the pathos of Hamlet and the slapstick of Bottom-and he imbued all works with the same marvelous humanity. "I relished the chance to bring back the dead of Romeo and Juliet, and I tried to do so with Shakespearean humanism and cinematic gusto," says Bates. Part love story, part action-adventure, R & J & Z asks what happens when society's shackles fall away and we're forced to confront our own immortality.

R & J & Z was originally developed by Opera House Arts in Stonington, Maine in the summer of 2014 where it played to sold-out houses and and was performed in rep with Romeo and Juliet.

R & J & Z features Melody Bates* (New York Innovative Theatre Award winner), Elizabeth Bell*, David Bennett, J.Stephen Brantley* (Indie Theatre Hall of Fame), Drae Campbell, Margi Sharp Douglas, August Geraci, Randy Howk, Matt Hurley*(AMC's Hell on Wheels), Warren Jackson*, Per Janson*, Caitlin Johnston* (HBO's The Knick), Blaze Mancillas*, Rachel Murdy*, Clara Sanchez-Vela, Marshall Spann*, Russell Sperberg, Chris Tramantana* and Michele Quintero Williams; produced by Hard Sparks; written by Melody Bates; directed by Joan Jubett; Abbey Bay (production management); Samantha Stambuck (stage management); Kaila Hill (assistant stage management); Tom Lee (scenic design); Kate R. Mincer (costumes); Barbara Samuels (lights); Mark Van Hare (sound); Stephanie Cox-Williams (gore FX); Dan Renkin (fight choreography).

Performance Schedule:
Wednesday, April 1 @ 8 - preview
Thursday, April 2 @ 8 - preview
Saturday, April 4 @ 8 - press performance
Sunday, April 5 @ 8 - press performance
Monday, April 6 @ 8 - press performance
Wednesday, April 8 @ 8
Thursday, April 9 @ 8
Friday, April 10 @ 8
Saturday, April 11 @ 8
Sunday, April 12 @ 8
Wednesday, April 15 @ 8
Thursday, April 16 @ 8
Friday, April 17 @ 8
Saturday, April 18 @ 8

R & J & Z, presented by Hard Sparks, plays at the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher Street b/w Greenwich and Washington Street in the Archive Building in the West Village) 1 train to Christopher, A, C, E, B, D, F, M trains to West 4th Street. More information at


Melody Bates (playwright) - Melody Bates is an award-winning actress and native Oregonian who lives and works in New York City. Her long-standing relationship with Maine's Opera House Arts has included performing in Antony & Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, and the world premiere of R & J & Z, her first full-length play. Other theatre includes J.Stephen Brantley's Eightythree Down; Bartlett Sher's Two Boys, Elisir d'Amore and Comte Ory (Metropolitan Opera); and numerous Off- and Off-Off-Broadway productions. Film: Public Hearing (2012), Naked/ Spurious (2015). Member of Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant. MFA in Acting, Columbia University.

Joan Jubett (director) - Joan Jubett recently directed the highly acclaimed R & J & Z, The Millay Sisters and the 2010 and 2012 productions of Burt Dow, Deep Water Man at the Stonington Opera House, Maine. NYC: Rebecca Hart's rock musical Struck (HERE), Multimedia True West (3LD), staged reading of Camino Real (Magis Theater), Lysistrata, (New Georges/THAW), Attitude of Gratitude, (92nd Street Y), AD on A Midsummer Night's Dream (Blessed Unrest), and AD on Oph3lia (HERE, Best (Ensemble nomination, NYIT). At the Center School: original conception/direction of Bollywood Cinderella and East Village Jekyll & Hyde as well as West Side Story and Guys and Dolls. As an actor, she has appeared regionally at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Stonington Opera House, Penobscot Theatre Company, Theatre at Monmouth, Nora Theatre Company, ICA; in New York at PS 122, The Public Theatre, La MaMa, The Ohio, Knitting Factory, and CSV as well as internationally at The Drill Hall, Traverse Theatre, Theatre Workshop and Théâtre des Amandiers (Paris). Joan has guest lectured at SVA, The New School, MIT and Colgate University and holds an MFA from Columbia University.

Stephanie Cox-Williams (gore/FX design) - Stephanie Cox-Williams is an actor, SFX/gore designer, fight choreographer and director for independent theatre and film in New York. SFX/gore design credits include: Theatre - Bat Boy (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Frankenstein Upstairs (Gideon Productions), The Cheater's Club (The Amoralists), Man Who Laughs (Stolen Chair Theater Company), Brew Of Dead II - Octoberflesh (Dysfunctional Theater), The Tower, Motherboard, Death Valley (Antimatter Collective) The Blood Brothers Present...horror anthologies, Little One (Nosedive Productions), Neighborhood 3 (SPF); Film - They Will Outlive Us All (a gotta and two shearers), House Guests, Evermore, and Monday (Sinister Six Must Be Destroyed Festival), Assistant Effects/Make-up - Anniversary Dinner (goota/enk) and Zombies: A Living History (History Channel). She was named Queen of Gore by NY Press and 'the Tom Savini of Off-Off Broadway' by the New York Times. She was named a Person of the Year by for 2011.

HARD SPARKS champions daring performances of dangerous plays. In its first three years, the company worked with twenty-six actors, five playwrights, five directors, and seven designers on six productions in ten venues. Hard Sparks has been nominated for eight New York Innovative Theatre Awards including Outstanding Premiere Production for Eightythree Down and Outstanding Short Script for Chicken-Fried Ciccone. In trying times, Hard Sparks tells tales of transformation and redemption, mining our darkness for light.

Pictured: Melody Bates as Juliet and Matt Hurley as Romeo. Photo by Karen Galella.

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