In a limited engagement, one of the world’s oldest touring Shakespeare theater companies, Actors From The London Stage, will present William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday in the Bayou Theater of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., in Houston.
The troupe, which will feature five actors performing 21 roles in the production, began its weeklong residency at UHCL on Monday under the direction of Elizabeth Klett, who is an associate professor of literature and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. The actors visited a wide variety of classes this week, whose subjects include literature, history, humanities, arts, education and writing.
“I am very excited to bring our students this unique opportunity, especially on a campus that has no performing arts programs,” Klett said. “The production is nontraditional in that there is no director; the five actors work together to interpret and stage the play. Further, the design and staging is stripped-down, using minimal scenery and props, so that the focus is on the actors’ bodies and voices, and on Shakespeare’s words, which work together to create the story. Their performances are energetic and virtuosic, engaging and moving, and tend to create unexpected moments, even in a play (like Romeo and Juliet) that audience members might feel that they know well.”
Actors participating in the production include Jack Whitman, who plays Romeo, as well as two other characters, including Romeo’s mother, Lady Montague. Jasmeen Juliet, a graduate of The Court Theater Training Co., plays Juliet, as well as Benvolio and Apothecary.
Roger May, a 25-year professional actor, plays Mercutio, and also plays Juliette’s father Lord Capulet, Balthasar and Abraham. William Donaldson, who has worked with The Royal National Theater and the Young Shakespeare Co., just to name a few, plays five characters: Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, Friar Lawrence, Lady Capulet, Peter and Lord Montague.
Rounding out the cast is Sarah Finigan, a newbie to the troupe, who performs six characters: Nurse, Prince, Paris, Friar John, Old Capulet and Sampson. She trained as an actor at Drama Studio in London and as a teacher at Goldsmiths University in London. She has taught Shakespeare and Drama in London high schools, run performing arts weeks in schools and delivered drama workshops to adults with disabilities.
“My favorite character to play in this production is the nurse because she’s very rude and bawdy,” Finigan said. “Although it’s a bit of a challenge playing six different characters, I believe the five and a half weeks we spent rehearsing for this will pay off. Our interpretations are very clear because our voices and body language will tell the story in a clear and concise way. That’s the ultimate reward when we can portray the vision of the play with our craft.”
In addition to their performances, the troupe of actors will present a workshop on job interviewing, for the school’s Career Services office, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in Atrium I of the Bayou Building on campus. Admission is free and open to the public.
Tickets for the play at the door are $25 per person or $12 for UHCL students. Tickets also can be purchased online at www.uhcl.edu/culturalarts.
“We are really excited to host this wonderful group here at UHCL and share one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays with this community,” said Alex Malone, managing director of the Bayou Theater at UHCL. “It is going to be a really interesting performance. It is sure to be an engaging and powerful show.”