‘Romeo & Juliet’ makes Shakespeare in the Park debut in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

‘Romeo & Juliet’ makes Shakespeare in the Park debut in Aspen

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
Shakespeare in the Park returns to Galena Plaza on Aug. 19 with a production of "As You Like It." Pictured is 2013's "Romeo and Juliet."
Leigh Vogel/The Aspen Times |

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What: Shakespeare in the Park: “Romeo & Juliet”

When: Opens today at 6 p.m., with additional performances through Aug. 31

Where: Galena Plaza

The eighth season of Shakespeare in the Park begins today with “Romeo and Juliet” at Galena Plaza, outside the Pitkin County Library.

The Hudson Reed Ensemble production will be the first of its kind. Typically, the audience is seated on the concrete landings encircling the plaza and the performance takes place in the grass. But for “Romeo and Juliet,” that arrangement will be reversed, with the audience in the grass. Director Kent Reed said he did this to ensure that the focus is on the performance, not the open-air view of Red Mountain, which will be concealed by a white cloth.

“Because ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is such an intimate play, I didn’t want the audience distracted by the scenery,” Reed said. “It was just too immense a backdrop.”

Another change is that seven of the nine actors are from outside Aspen. Historically, Hudson Reed Ensemble casts have been made up mostly of local performers.

“I was very, very, very, very nervous about finding the right Romeo and Juliet,” Reed said.

Juliet will be played by Shelby Lathrop, an 18-year-old from Breckenridge, whom Reed discovered at Colorado Mountain College in Spring Valley. She was performing in “Bleacher Bums,” a play about the Chicago Cubs, in which she only had a handful of lines. Even with the small sample, Reed approached her after the show for a reading.

“She was the right age, and she was a beautiful girl,” Reed said.

Romeo will be played by Nick Garay, an Argentinian in his early 20s who was the first student to graduate from Colorado Mountain College’s theater program.

After meeting Lathrop and Garay, Reed discovered a network of actors who wanted to audition for the play. Owen O’Farrell, who co-starred alongside Garay in Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in Carbondale, will play Friar Lawrence. O’Farrell also has experience as a Shakespearean actor in New York, and he appeared in the 1993 feature film “Aspen Extreme.”

“Just by networking, because these people all knew each other, all kinds of (actors) came out to audition,” Reed said. “And lucky for us that they did because they make up most of the cast.”

Previous Shakespeare in the Park performances, including “Richard III” and “Julius Caesar,” have featured a contemporary setting with contemporary costumes. “Romeo and Juliet,” however, will be placed in the Italian Renaissance, with traditional dress and choreographed swordfights.

This will be the first performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare in the Park, a free event founded in 2005 by Reed and Susan Mauntel. Performances take place today through Sunday, Aug. 22 through 25 and Aug. 30 and 31. All shows begin at 6 p.m. The Aug. 31 performance will feature a pre-show talk by Shakespearean scholars Ken and Carol Adelman.