Besides the basic theme of love and how fighting destroys lives, William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is a story that affords many lessons.
It makes it an ideal offering for young audiences, especially as neatly served up with Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet," a 75-minute abridged no intermission production of Shakespeare's most famed tragedy of true love.
Adapted and staged by Jeff Award-winning director and Chicagoan of the Year in Theater Rachel Rockwell, this is a great family-friendly introduction to Shakespeare that's presented on Saturday mornings now until March 23.
The cast includes Chicago actors Christopher Allen and Laura Rook, in the lead title roles as they make their Chicago Shakespeare Theater debuts.
More than 40,000 students and teachers annually experience this "Short Shakespeare! Series." Not only do many field trips make their way to Navy Pier to see the production performed, but also a tour takes the stage story "on the road" to 25 years. (And during the summer, another 35,000 young audiences and families attend the summer theater offering at Chicago Shakespeare.)
Just a few of the schools in our area taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity so far are Lowell High School, Prairie State College in Chicago Heights and Governors State University in University Park, with the latter including a pooled audience of also middle and high school age attendees. There's even an "on the road" performance in April at my own middle school I attended, near our family farm, North Judson-San Pierre Middle School.
Actors returning to Chicago Shakespeare for "Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet" are Lynn Robert Berg as Friar Laurence/Lord Montague, Melissa Carlson as Lady Capulet, Alejandro Cordoba as Sampson/Ensemble (through March 9), Kurt Ehrmann as Lord Capulet, Maureen Gallagher as Nurse, Tim Gittings as Peter/Friar John, Nicholas Harazin as Benvolio and Edgar Miguel Sanchez as Sampson/Ensemble (starting March 11). Making their Chicago Shakespeare debuts are Samuel Ashdown as Tybalt, Kamal Angelo Bolden as Prince/Paris, Jeb Burris as Mercutio and Christopher Sheard as Balthazar/Apothecary/Ensemble.
The audience is provided with a fantastic fold-out, large newspaper-style program that only includes the production details, but also helpful activities and clever facts and posed questions to help stimulate discussion for young minds.
The production team for "Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet" includes Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Theresa Ham, Lighting Designer Greg Hofmann, Composer Ethan Deppe, Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal, Properties Master Chelsea Meyers, Fight Choreographer Matt Hawkins and Verse Coach Matt Schwader.
"Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet" is performed at 11 a.m. Saturdays and tickets are just $16–$20, with all patrons receiving a 40 percent discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. The play is recommended for ages 10 and older. Immediately following each Saturday performance, actors remain on stage for a discussion with the audience, and audience members are invited to join the actors for one-on-one conversations and photo opportunities in the lobby. FYI: (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com.