GOSHEN — William Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet” will come alive this weekend at the Goshen Theater, thanks to GoShakes, Goshen’s newest theater company.
GoShakes’ production of “Romeo and Juliet” opens Friday, May 3, for a two-weekend stay that the company hopes to use as a trial run of sorts to gauge community response.
The idea for a company sprouted from the partnership of Lindsay Nance and Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall. Nance and Bland-Kendall, both theater veterans, had returned to Goshen last summer after some time away and were staying sharp by meeting and working on scenes together.
Inspired by the works of Shakespeare, which Nance was immersing herself in at the time, the two began to form a group, dubbed it GoShakes and got to work making preparations for their first performance.
Bland-Kendall noted that finding others to contribute to the company was not difficult, citing the large artistically skilled community in and around Goshen.
“We shared (the idea) with a lot of people we’ve always wanted to collaborate with,” Bland-Kendall said. “A few weeks later, we have a team of passionate people who really wanted to pursue this experiment, as we were calling it, together.”
Though there were certainly opportunities to participate in theater around the area, the two believed Goshen was lacking a presence of classic theater and began putting together a team that wanted to provide classical performances for the community.
Several people involved with the company have connections to New World Arts, Goshen’s other theater company, and Bland-Kendall said she’d like to see opportunities for collaboration between the groups in the future.
“What’s different about GoShakes and New World specifically is that they do quite a few shows a season and they’re all quite cutting-edge, contemporary pieces for the most part,” Bland-Kendall explained. “We can still get our fix of really edgy, cool pieces there and then come back and take a breather and enjoy something probably classic from GoShakes as well, so it kind of feeds two types of theater in our immediate community.”
“Romeo and Juliet” seemed like a logical place to start for the company, given their name and the familiarity many have with the story.
But Bland-Kendall and Nance hope to provide a different perspective on this particular classic, one they hope will not only engage and entertain those in attendance, but will lend itself to thought on contemporary issues.
“You often think of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a love story,” Nance said. “There is that aspect to it, but it is a story about people who are torn apart by violence in the sense of how many more people have to suffer, how many more people have to die unnecessarily before we say ‘no, this is unacceptable.’”
“That is the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’” Nance continued, “and you happen to see how it affects these two individuals intimately.”
“We’re constantly reminding ourselves it’s about story-telling,” Bland-Kendall added.
They noted the importance of story-telling and the ability to provide a different perspective have been made easier by the group’s selection for director.
The company was able to bring on former Goshen College drama professor and Columbia College professor Michelle Milne to direct the show and say her style has brought vitality and accessibility to the familiar and sometimes hard-to-access story.
“I think Michelle’s physical style of theater makes something which can be complex and inaccessible, like Shakespeare, very accessible for the average audience-goer,” said stage manager and producer Grace Swartzendruber.
“So far, we’ve been received so well,” Bland-Kendall stated, referring to the company’s reception to this point. “With us doing ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ we’re seeing how the community receives it and hoping it goes well. So far, so great.”
GoShakes also hopes to use its first performance to gauge the level of interest in educational opportunities for students through pre- and post-production workshops. Bland-Kendall said the group would be open to providing an inside look into theatrical productions to teachers and students who would be interested in experiencing and understanding a production and the work that goes into a full production.
The company originally planned on holding their debut performances at Red Tail Farm but ran into zoning issues and would not have received word on whether or not they could utilize the property until late April.
Luckily, Downtown Goshen Inc. offered the Goshen Theater to the group and final preparations are under way for opening night.
Bland-Kendall said she hopes GoShakes will eventually receive clearance to perform at Red Tail Farm and said the relationship is being built to make that happen.
GoShakes is planning to put on another performance sometime around the holiday season, though exact dates and the play have yet to be selected.
Tickets for GoShakes’ production of Romeo and Juliet are on sale on its website or at Better World Books, 118 E. Washington St., which is serving as its box office. Tickets are $15 for general admission, with a special $10 rate for seniors and students.
Performances are scheduled for Friday, May 3, through Monday, May 6, and May 9-11.
For more information on GoShakes, its production of “Romeo and Juliet” or to order tickets online, visit www.goshakes.org.