Previews: ROMEO AND JULIET at Progressive Arts Theatre

ROMEO AND JULIET combines the timeless charm of Shakespearean drama with a contemporary twist.

By: Sep. 26, 2023
Previews: ROMEO AND JULIET at Progressive Arts Theatre

Previews: ROMEO AND JULIET at Progressive Arts Theatre The award-winning Progressive Arts Theater prepares to welcome back a beloved tradition: Shakespeare in the Park on Sunday, October 1 at Pioneer Park in Dundedin. This year's production of ROMEO AND JULIET, directed by Kirsten Stiff Walker and Lil Barcaski, promises to be a thrilling experience for theater enthusiasts of all ages, combining the timeless charm of Shakespearean drama with a contemporary twist.

Walker has a deep connection to this timeless play. She has been involved with it in various capacities, having directed it four times and even choreographed and music-directed it. Each time, she eagerly anticipates how the actors will bring the characters and the classic story to life in new and unique ways. Walker states, "Shakespeare is incredible to dig deep into meaning and find the depth in the characters and the core life lessons and values weaved into the stories. Romeo and Juliet never disappoints."

Walker has taken an innovative approach to this production, infusing it with modern elements while staying true to the essence of the play. "I went a little avante garde for the first act," she reveals, hinting at the unexpected surprises awaiting the audience.

While the production draws inspiration from the mid-'90s film, Walker aims to make Shakespeare accessible to a broad audience, from novices to seasoned fans, by incorporating modern music and a touch of audience participation, which remains a secret until the performance.

Director Walker's vision for the setting is transforming Dunedin into an apocalyptic gangland with graffiti, turf wars, and sparkling space guns. This bold approach serves as a commentary on contemporary society, addressing critical issues of our time.

Seth Walker, the artist behind the mural-like set, adds another layer of creativity to the production. While the details of the set remain a secret until the show, it promises to be a stunning backdrop that sets the stage in a funky and unforgettable way.

Previews: ROMEO AND JULIET at Progressive Arts Theatre As for the actors, they bring their own perspectives and insights to their characters. Kara Amodeo, who plays Juliet, sees her character as a free spirit seeking joy in life, using her relationship with Romeo to escape from a difficult home life. This interpretation adds depth to Juliet's character, emphasizing her adventurous side.

"I really try and portray this when I'm acting as I think that yearning and adventurous side of her is equally as important as the sweet, quiet girl is," says Amodeo.

In portraying the Nurse, Stef Simich expresses her love for bringing classics to life and highlights the contemporary soundtrack that will have the audience singing along.

"I love bringing classics to life, and there are very few classics like star-crossed lovers! When the audience is not on the edge of their seat from the drama, they will sing along with our contemporary soundtrack," Simich explains. "We have acrobats for the children, fight scenes for the thrill seekers, romance for the lovers, this show has it all!"

In the role of Romeo, Leona Santiago envisions her character as a fun and adventurous young man deeply in love but facing numerous obstacles.

"My favorite scene is the second fight with Romeo, Tybalt, and Mercutio. I believe this scene truly shows the tight relationship that Romeo and Mercutio have, and after that scene, the whole mood of the show shifts."

Josh Miccio, who plays Friar Laurence, believes that "Romeo and Juliet" is the most accessible Shakespeare play for audiences and young actors. Josh's portrayal of Friar Laurence emphasizes warmth, humility, and wit, positively influencing the young lovers. Through his acting choices, Miccio crafted a warm, humble, witty, and quick-tongued Friar.

"This specific adaptation focuses on the title characters' innocence and naivety as they navigate growing up in a world plagued by violence. I see Friar Laurence as a positive father figure to children caught in the throngs of an abusive relationship with their fraternal parents. With a play so steeped in tragedy, I've tried to find the lighter moments for the Friar.

"The audience knows exactly how it ends, yet they still hope it will turn out differently this time. Every audience member can connect with the basic need to love and be loved in return, and I think that's what they'll take away from this production. I think the overall message of this show is that hate will do nothing but destroy us, including the ones we love."

Walker adds, "This show is perfect for people of all ages. Our cast is diverse, and you will see well-known stage actors alongside a teen just starting to audition for theater colleges. As always, our theater represents all people and all abilities, with quite a few actors with differential abilities with many lines, which is super exciting. Karsen, my special star daughter with xia-gibbs syndrome, will also make a cameo.

"This story has so many ways to make commentary on society, using a little off-the-wall ideas. I feel our production hits on key issues in our world today. I hope my vision and the ideas of my co-director, Lil Barcaski, are clearly understood. As directors, I feel we have a responsibility to share art, share beauty, share love, and pain while also showcasing the words, the work, and the magic in the meanings with any production we touch, and we do with this one for sure."

Dunedin's Progressive Arts Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of ROMEO AND JULIET is at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 1. General Admission is FREE.  Capulet VIP Package $25. Montague VIP Package $15. Patrons wishing to secure space in a VIP seating area may purchase tickets at Or visit our website at

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From This Author - Deborah Bostock-Kelley

A twice-published author, multi-time award-winning playwright, magazine writer, theatre reviewer, and newspaper journalist with 30+ years in journalism and business copywriting, Deb was a 2022 Recipie... Deborah Bostock-Kelley">(read more about this author)


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