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Comedy, tragedy meet during Shakespeare in the Park

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Foothills theater troup has a different take on 'Romeo and Juliet'

By Corinne Westeman

Never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo — this time featuring cell phones, city skyline backdrops, line dancing and contemporary musical interludes.

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The Foothills Park & Recreation District’s Theatre Company presented performances of “Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” July 22-23 at Clement Park, and will host two more performances this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

About 300 people attended each performance last weekend, despite a few interludes of rain on both nights. The production is a “condensed version,” organizers said, clipping the usually three-plus-hour show down to about two.

Director Amalie Millhone said the show is a “comedic take” on the classic Shakespearean tragedy.

“The more I read (Romeo and Juliet), the more I realized that these characters are stuck on themselves,” Millhone said. “Unfortunately, the more you cut from the show, the less funny it is, because you lose all those colorful side characters.”

The show provided the audience several opportunities for laughter, especially toward the end. For instance, Lady Capulet disgustedly wipes her cousin Tybalt’s blood on one of her kinsmen; and ominous, dramatic music plays whenever Juliet decides to drink the potion to appear dead.

Holly Dupree of Centennial and Paul Blomquist of Denver were camped out with their dinners under a large umbrella shelter at Saturday night’s performance. Dupree said she went to the company’s Shakespeare in the Park show last year, and enjoyed it.

“It’s a good way to get the young people involved (in Shakespeare) and excited about the play,” Dupree said.

After the show, the two said they thoroughly enjoyed the company’s rendition of the classic tragedy.

“The characters felt very three-dimensional,” Blomquist said. “I think much of that was because of the background action. It kept me engaged in the story.”

Jeffrey Keller, a recent Columbine High School graduate, played Romeo, and he said it took him several weeks to memorize all his lines. He said the first two performances went well, and that the group would work to “keep the energy we had in balancing the comedy and drama” in this weekend’s shows.

Keller said he most enjoys the scene in which Romeo “shows his love for Tybalt” by handing him a rose.

“Romeo isn’t what everyone thinks he is,” Keller said. “He’s a bit stuck up. And, he’s an angst-y teenager, which is the part of life I just went through.”

Lisa Gaylord, a 2008 Dakota Ridge graduate, played Juliet, and said she believes people can relate to Shakespeare more once they see a performance, especially a comedic interpretation.

“Some of my teachers scared me away from Shakespeare, saying that we wouldn’t understand it,” Gaylord said. “But I think once you understand the dialogue, it’s a lot better.”

Gaylord said performing outdoors “adds a whole new challenge,” and that she wished the show’s run was longer than just two weekends.

“Despite the elements, we endured,” Gaylord said of the rainy and windy weather during last weekend’s performances. “It gives me a chance to test my improv skills. You have to take it as it comes, and be able to go with anything. Working outside — you never know what’s going to happen.”