Alex Delaney and Alli Balloun rehearse a scene as the title characters of Shuswap theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet on Friday, Oct. 6.-image credit: Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer

Alex Delaney and Alli Balloun rehearse a scene as the title characters of Shuswap theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet on Friday, Oct. 6.-image credit: Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer

Enduring love story comes to Shuswap stage

“O Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou Romeo?

This is the passionate plea Juliet of the Capulet family makes to Romeo, a member of the rival Montague family, in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Meet them on the stage at Shuswap Theatre, where one of The Bard’s best-loved plays will run from Nov. 3 to 18, with guest director Liz Hobbs at the helm.

It’s one of the greatest love stories ever told, says the ebullient Hobbs, noting the families have been feuding for many years, causing their teens to resort to desperate measures to be together.

“Romeo, the only son of the Montagues, and Juliet, the only daughter of the Capulets, get married in secret, but Juliet’s cousin kills Juliet’s friend and Romeo avenges his death and is exiled,” says Hobbs. “This is where we go from a romantic comedy to a tragedy and everything goes wrong from there.”

Juliet is supposed to be marrying someone else, but as she’s already married, a friar concocts a plan – Juliet will take a potion that will send her into a deep sleep, one that appears she is dead.

“Romeo is supposed to come and wake her up and take her to Mantua where he’s been exiled. However, he doesn’t get the memo,” Hobbs says. “He thinks she’s really dead, poisons himself and dies next to her body right before she wakes up.”

The devastated Juliet stabs herself, joining her beloved in death.

“It’s really fun for the first 45 minutes,” laughs the enthusiastic director. “I actually really love this play; everyone’s acting out of love with good intentions, but they don’t work. One of the things interesting to me is that they’re acting out of good intentions but do it so blindly and quickly so it all goes sideways.”

Hobbs describes the characters as super interesting and three-dimensional in a play without a villain. As well, the families end their feud when they realize the sorrow their hatred has sown.

Shuswap Theatre members have long wanted to present a Shakespearean play, and Hobbs, who is very familiar with Shakespeare both onstage and behind the scenes, chose Romeo and Juliet, when Julia Body advised her that the people who turn up for auditions are usually teens or seniors.

“This seems like a great fit, having awesome roles for both of those groups,” she says of the 20-member cast whose ages range from 12 to 70. “Shakespearean language is a bit challenging to work their heads around but we’re figuring out what everyone’s doing and saying.”

Shuswap Theatre’s artistic committee reached out to the Alberta native in the spring because of the 31-year-old’s longtime experience with the Bard’s work.

“I have been doing Shakespeare professionally since I was 13, both as an actor and director,” she says listing Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bianca in Taming of the Shrew, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and many different characters in Macbeth and Hamlet, with various professional companies in Edmonton.

“I really like the language, they are incredibly well-written plays,” she says. “The poetry and depth of language is really challenging and fun to set your teeth into as an actor.”

Hobbs attended a fine arts school in Edmonton after which she pursued a post-secondary degree at the University of Alberta, earning double honours in major drama and psychology.

“Theatre and psychology are both the study of human behaviour so they are totally complementary and help with directing,” says the outdoor director of the Edmonton Fringe Festival, the largest theatre festival after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Theatre is Hobbs’ life. As well as acting, directing and producing, she holds residencies in schools, integrating students into professional productions. She has hosted many workshops, including those at Shuswap Theatre in September.

Hobbs is delighted with the Shuswap Theatre team that is working to present Romeo and Juliet: costume designers include Keren Huyter, Brittany Grieve and Ellen Gonella; Jim Clayton and Ethan van Iderstine are lighting designers; Hobbs and Randy Brogdan are tag-teaming on set design; Susan Macmillan and Susan McLellan are producers and Ann Skelhorne is technical producer.

Romeo and Juliet takes place over three weekends from Nov. 3 to 18 at Shuswap Theatre on Hudson Avenue. Evening performances are at 7:30, Sunday shows are at 1:30 p.m.

The first performance features the opening night gala, with food and refreshments after the show, along with a chance to talk with the cast and crew.


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Liz Hobbs

Liz Hobbs