An extreme casting version with five actors – featuring Chris Baumer, Mary Coy, Clinton Johnston, Boomie Pedersen and Lana Young.

All tickets for all performances pay-what-you-will.  434-361-1999 for further info.

Wed. April 18, 2012, 7:30 (Preview)
Thu. April 19, 7:30
Fri. April 20, 7:30
Sat. April 21, 7:30
Sun. April 22, 2:00

Wed. April 25, 7:30
Thu. April 26, 7:30
Fri. April 27, 7:30
Sat. April 28, 7:30
Sun. April 29, 2:00

What’s happening at the Hamner Theater? That’s always a good question to ask because the answer is usually not what you expected.

Right now the Hamner is in rehearsal for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but not just another production of the Bard’s beloved play. Here 5 actors are taking on all 27 roles in the play. Not one of them leaves the stage during the play. At times, one actor playing two roles in the same scene might have to have a conversation with himself. Or herself. It is called “extreme casting”.

The result is an exciting, highly theatrical night of drama.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

But why would you want to do the play this way? “This is not just an exercise in theatricality. And it’s not just another way to make the actor’s job more challenging,” says actor and project creator Mary Coy.

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

“I got to thinking about the ‘ancient grudge’ between the two families, the Montagues and the Capulets,” says Coy. “They don’t even remember what started the fighting between the families. But the hatred keeps going. I wanted to use the play to help us and the audience to understand their need to stop the animosity. And, by extension, to see the need for the resolution of conflicts in our world that are constantly leading to tragedy.”

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

“That added a whole new layer for us to put into our performance,” says Boomie Pedersen, who plays Juliet and Mercutio and who is co-Artistic Director of the Hamner. “We are two families in the present, in an unfamiliar room, facing each other with a mediator to help us come to grips with our conflict. We use only Shakespeare’s words. It’s only Romeo and Juliet, but we are also people in the here and now, dealing with problems we have with each other in the 21st century.”

Lana Young, who was last seen at the Hamner in Pinter’s Silence and who plays, among others, Benvolio and Lady Capulet, has fallen in love with the process. “We’ve really had to work together to have this all make sense. The boundaries are constantly shifting but the text never varies. It’s always Shakespeare, full of double meanings and connections that resonate for us in 2012. We want to make them clear for the audience.”

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.

Another defining and daring choice made in the Hamner production is that all the actors are older and not the ages of Romeo and Juliet. This is not the R&J your parents saw or ever dreamed of. But the actors’ age adds yet another level of understanding. Chris Baumer, who plays Romeo, says, “For all the times I have read the play or worked on it in different circumstances, this is the first time I have really felt the immensity of the tragedy. By that I mean not just the star-crossed lovers but the tragedy for those left behind, the mothers and fathers whose actions, based on deeply ingrained prejudice, lead to senseless loss. Being in my 50s, having children of my own, and playing Romeo, the play is almost overwhelming.”

The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

“It has been hard work rehearsing this play,” says Coy, “very demanding. I had the beginnings of an idea and then found four more actors willing to help bring it to life. Where else can this happen but at a small local theater? We are lucky to have the Hamner which is open to trying new things.”

Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;

Romeo and Juliet runs from April 19-29 at the Hamner Theater. In an experiment of another kind, the theater is offering all performances at a pay-what-you-will price.

The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.