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L.A. Beat

Shakespeare in the Park bringing Romeo and Juliet to Galt Gardens

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Shakespeare in the Park celebrates their fifth year performing the Bard in Galt Gardens by tackling Shakespeare’ beloved tragedy “ Romeo and Juliet.”
The show runs in Galt Gardens, July 14,15,21,22,28,29 and Aug.t 3-5,10-12. They are also performing a matinee at Casa, Aug 6 at 2 p.m.
“Things are going very well,” said director DJ Gellatly.
“I’ve been very impressed with the cast. There is a lot of really great diversity on the cast. It’s just working,” he said, before a rehearsal at the Gate, which is letting them store set and props there as well as allowing them rehearsal space.

Cole Fetting, Chris Peterson and Halla Wagner rehearse Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Richard Amery
He has set the play in contemporary Italy. This year the cast includes a couple of high school students playing the younger characters including Chinook high school student Emily Klink as Juliet and LCI student Halla Wagner plus an eclectic group of Shakespeare in the Park veterans, University of Lethbridge students and recent graduates plus familiar faces from the local community theatre scene.
“I really wanted to emphasize the age difference of the actors. You can see the old guard versus the new guard. Older actors  are in the more senior roles like Montague and Capulet and I cast younger actors in the younger roles,” Gellatly said, adding Garrett Bishoff is Romeo because he wanted a strong, experienced actor to play Romeo.

Garrett Bishoff and Cole Fetting rehearse a scene from Romeo and Juliet at the Gate, June 22. Photo by Richard Amery
“Everyone is off book, which helps me as director and everybody is really buying into the philosophy of the show, which is nice,” he continued.
“We did a lot of character work at the beginning, exploring why the characters say and do what they do. We talked a lot about what they are hoping to achieve to bring the characters to a full arch,” he continued.
“Especially Juliet. She‘s a really logical girl yet youthful. Our actress has really embraced that. She’s 17 and really mature. Sharon Peat runs a very good program at Chinook so I asked her specifically who would make a really good Juliet,” he continued.
“There are a lot of talented young ladies in the play,” he said.

“She suggested three young ladies and two of them are in the play,” he continued, adding Shakespeare in the Park veteran Garrett Bishoff takes on the role of impetuous youth Romeo.
“Impetuous youth is a great way of putting it. He uses a lot of flowery speech. He’s a very poetic speaker, which makes him come across as being very high brow, but Garrett is doing a great job of humanizing him,” Gellatly said.
“He comes across as very pompous, but he goes through a lot of different emotions. He’s a misanthrope mooning over his love for Juliet. He goes through the courtship process very quickly and gets married very quickly, then gets into a fight and kills Tybalt and gets banished. He goes through the full spectrum of emotions and Garrett has done an admirable job with him,” he continued.

He had to recast the part of the friar  as his first choice Camille Pavlenko will be performing in New West Theatre’s August show “Heatwave.”
“She couldn’t do both shows,” he said, adding it would have been a lot of fun with the friar as a female.
David Gabert, who most people know from being at the helm of long-standing Lethbridge improv troupe the Drama Nutz is  excited to play Montague, head of the feuding Montague house.
“It’s really nice to do something that is scripted,” he said.

Cole Fetting is excited to make his debut with Shakespeare in the park as Benvolio.
“ He’s an amazing character to play. He’s Romeo’s cousin. He tries to make peace between the houses,” Fetting said.
“He loves his friends. He’d take a bullet for them,” he said.
“I’m loving every moment of it. I’ve never acted in Romeo and Juliet and it’s my first time with Shakespeare in the Park and it’s been incredible. I love meeting so many new talented people,” Fetting enthused.


Kaitlin Norman and Cole Fetting rehearse a scene from Romeo and Juliet at the Gate, June 22. Photo by Richard Amery
Garrett Bishoff is an old hand with Shakespeare in the Park. He is enjoying playing Romeo, his first dramatic leading role.
“I usually get connected to play leading roles in comedies,” Bishoff observed adding he has only  played dramatic roles in short films and in school.
“This is a tragedy but there  are lots of comedic aspects to it,” he said.
“It has been a lot of work,” Bishoff continued.

“Romeo goes pretty deep in his speeches but he is also wild and unprepared. he makes decision, but they may not be the best decisions he could have made,” he observed.
 He said it has been fun playing Romeo and Juliet in contemporary Italy.
“The way people look at love and hate really hasn’t changed a lot in half a millennium,” he observed
  Bishoff is also working  at Fort Whoop-Up, though that will be finished by the time Shakespeare in the park starts.
“I think people will be entertained. I hope they  will be inspired by the amount of work that has gone into these characters,” Bishoff said.
Shakespeare in the Park general manger Kate Connolly noted the  group wanted to do something a little different  this year to not only mark their fifth anniversary, but also the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
they recruited the Lethbridge Textiles Guild to create colourful banners that will be  part of the backdrop.
 She is excited to see the contemporary look of the play.

“The friar wears a dog collar and shorts though he dresses more formally for the wedding,” she enthused, praising the talented cast.
“We’ve done  A Midsummer’s  Dream, As You Like It, Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing this year is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death an our fifth year, so we wanted to mark that occasion by transitioning from comedy to tragedy,” she said adding she is also excited to feature high school actors for the first time as well as taking the show on the road to the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod Saturday, July 30  as well as their annual trek to the Coutts Centre outside of Nanton, Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. part of U of L faculty of fine arts art day which also features performances all day and  lots of artists around giving demonstrations of painting. She noted Shakespeare in the park’s season starts later than usual because of Canada Day happening on a Friday and StreetWheelers taking over Galt Gardens, July 8-10.

“Shakespeare in the Park is known for light-hearted comedies, but we hope people will be inspired to see that we are more than light-hearted comedies and will enjoy something with substance,” Bishoff said.
“There are a lot of nuances in the dialogue that we bring out that we want people to notice and that hit home. But I’m just looking forward to an entertaining show. I want people to be entertained,” Gellatly said.

While opening night is  officially July 14, you can get a sneak preview of a couple of scenes plus music during two full evening of songs and scenes from Shakespeare with musical director Megan Wittig and accompanist Jillian Bracken  a wonderful pianist who performed at the fundraiser for LMT  in May.

They are at the Mocha Cabana for one night only on Friday, July 8  6 p.m. and the second night Saturday,  July 9 at Streatside.
 Admission is free for Shakespeare In The Park  which will begins at 7 p.m. though donations will be taken.

A version of this story appears in the June 29, 2016 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times


— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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