Spoiler alert from the playwright himself: “Never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
But don’t let that deter you from coming out to revel in the delights of Taos High School Drama’s production of William Shakespeare’s immortal classic. Before the “glooming peace” descends on the star-cross’d lovers, there is a Renaissance banquet of love, joy, music, dance, thrilling sword-fights, bawdy humor and scathing wit.
“Romeo and Juliet” begins its two-week run at 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 23) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. It continues with Saturday (Feb. 24), 7 p.m., and next Thursday through Saturday (March 1-3). A matinée performance will be given Sunday (Feb. 25) at 2 p.m.
THS Drama Teacher and Director Adam Overley spoke about the selection of the play for this year’s spring offering.
“It was done democratically,” he said. “Each year I bring a few possibilities for the students to read and vote on, and this is the one they chose. I thought it would be a good fit. It is the classic high school play, and for good reason. It deals with a lot of themes and emotions that connect with people of that age group. It’s not too intimidating because it’s familiar; it’s a known story. It feels approachable, but also has enough depth that there’s a lot for them to work on, especially emotionally.”
Auditions were conducted last November, and two independent casts have been working on it ever since.
“The two casts are a necessity so that we can create opportunities for as many students to perform as possible,” Overley said. “Every year, one of the exciting things about having two casts is that you get two versions of every character, each one completely different but equally fitting.”
The two Romeos are James Ryan Cox and Julian Collignon; their respective Juliets are played by Layla Brooks and Maya Johann.
“I highly enjoy being in the show,” Cox said. “All the actresses and actors I get to play off of truly have a strong understanding of their characters. I am very eager to show off Act 3 to an audience (because it is my favorite part of the show). The THS drama department has also had a lot of assistance in this show, and I am very happy to show what has been put together with their help.”
“I love playing Juliet because she is such a romantic young woman,” Brooks said. “She has a love and passion for life, and I completely relate to her. She is very charming and witty with Romeo, yet she still maintains kindness, and I admire that about her. This role is so special to my soul. I’ve always wanted to play Juliet because I am just as much of a hopeless romantic as she is, and watching this production and her character come to life gives me so much joy.”
Brooks spoke appreciatively of the class and its teacher. “Mr. Overley takes a lot of his own time to make our productions great as well as gives us personal tips that help us grow into better actors. Without this program, I wouldn’t have the love I have for drama that I do today, and I wouldn’t be pursuing it for college. This program deserves so much money and support because the students involved are creative, talented, optimistic, and passionate about their futures in the arts.”
Olivia Tennant and Korah Garner share the role of Mercutio, with Ryan Kipnis and Ian Tosta as Benvolio, Romeo Dunleavy and Evan Chilton as Tybalt, Keldon Larsen and Elijah Reynolds as Paris, and Scarlett Finnell and Jenna Basehart playing Lady Capulet, Juliet’s mother.
“This show has been a wonderful type of challenging that has motivated me to work harder as well as to open myself up to more emotions,” said Basehart. “‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a show that is full of high tempers and deep sadness. Working with these types of emotions is something I personally haven’t had to do before. and I am looking forward to the new experience. I truly believe that this show is going to move the hearts of the audience as well as cause them to fall back in love with high school theater.”
“I love playing Lady Capulet,” Finnell said. “I would say it’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve gotten the chance to play. There are so many sides to her: she’s powerful, strong, but she also goes through a lot and has a lot of different emotions. It’s been wonderful, and I’m so happy to be playing this role for my last big play in Taos. I’m looking forward to seeing how the people react to her.”
Zoey Birdsong plays Romeo’s father, Lord Montague. “I’m excited to be doing Shakespeare,” she said.
Julianne Moyer plays Juliet’s Nurse in both casts. “I’ve learned so much from both my director and all the other theatergoers who helped us put this together. The cast has made performing here so much better, and I hope we get a good crowd. I love the Nurse’s lines so much! I get to complain about my back!”
Overley expressed gratitude for the many adult volunteers who have given their time and skills to the production. “Travis Webb has been helping with fencing and fight choreography, there’s some amazing stage combat,” he said. “Megan Yackovich (of Ballet Taos) will be choreographing the masquerade ball with original music composed for the show by Laura Bulkin (Tempo writer.) Parents have helped us create and build the set. Serena Jade Smith and Laine Ember have made our amazing costumes. We have a genuine hope that the community will respond to this show and come out and support it. Taos High drama relies on the support of the community, both economically in being able to put on productions at all, and in people coming out to see the show so that the students, who have invested huge amounts of work, can experience being valued and appreciated for their talent and dedication.”
Tickets are $15, $10 for youth 17 and under. For advance tickets call (575) 758-2052 or visit the Taos Center for the Arts office at 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
Photos are credited to Micayla Gonzales and the Taos High School photography class.