The actors are in town! Set out a lawn chair or a blanket, as Bear & Co. brings you a summer parks-touring production of Shakespeare’s love story for all time: Romeo and Juliet. Passions soar and hearts break in this 90-minute version, brought to you by Bear’s core summer team: Eleanor Crowder, director; Rachel Eugster, music director; and Chris McLeod, fight director.
As Juliet, this year’s show stars Old Ottawa South resident Zoe Georgaras, whose fire dancing in 2016’s Macbeth and 2015’s The Tempest wowed audiences across Ottawa. Once again, Georgaras will balance her skill as an actor on the flaming edge of danger.
There will be danger at the sword-edge, as well, as the streets of Verona are brought to life by Phillip Merriman (Romeo), David da Costa (Mercutio) and J. T. Morris (Benvolio). David Whiteley, who appeared in Bear’s 2013 A Comedy of Errors, will play Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet, while Chris McLeod (last year’s Macbeth) will combine three roles—Friar Lawrence, the Nurse, and master swordsman Tybalt—into one star turn, in true Shakespearean fashion.
Why stage Romeo and Juliet today? Here is love as obsession, love in a time of darkness, love as release to an infinity of shared soul. And here is craziness in the face of a culture where honour killings are rampant, child brides bow to the decrees of their husbands, and death is a better option than marriage to a chosen suitor.
“Is there room for total romance in an age of sexually explicit discussion and a revulsion from rape culture?” asks director Crowder. “These worries seem modern, but not if you look more closely.” How does Romeo suffer from the culture that surrounds him in Verona? Shakespeare’s hero escapes the teasing and gross suggestions of his peers to climb an orchard wall to gaze upon his love, or to die at the hands of her kinsmen. “One pleasure of Romeo and Juliet lies in how one’s response changes over time,” Crowder continues. “For teens, the story is all about passion and the injustice of a world where clan loyalty trumps the individual. For parents, the lens pivots: Here is a child utterly disobedient to a loving father, a royal edict overthrown by swaggering bully boys. What more can a parent do than ‘day, night, at ride or at play, alone, in company, have all his care for’ his daughter?”
Join us outdoors to celebrate the long evenings and warm weather and enjoy theatre that stands the test of time. Bear & Co. brings you an experience close to the touring companies of four hundred years ago. Bring a cool drink or a full picnic, rain gear in case it mizzles, and bug spray, and watch six actors conjure the warring families of Verona in front of your eyes, while letting you in on the technical fun of staging a play in the open air.
Our tour schedule is posted www.bearandcompany.ca. We'll be in Windsor Park on July 12 & 26, 2017, or check online to find a date and location that suits you better. The tour runs across Ottawa from July 3 to 30. 2017. Curtain time is 7pm sharp, but audiences are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the pre-show music.
New this year, we will introduce a way to reserve blanket space in advance, so check the website for details. In tune with Shakespearean practice, the company will pass a hat following the performance, with a suggested donation of $20 per person. Believe our closing song: Your support is indeed how the actors will eat tomorrow!
Bear & Co. does not disappoint. We bring stellar music, fine sword fights, brilliantly interpreted Shakespeare, and the excitement of a fire show, to your neighbourhood park.
Rachel Eugster is the Bear & Co Music Director.
Originally published in the July-August 2017 OSCAR.