INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Spot on! Cast members of Shakespeare's “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” donned costumes, painted their faces and stepped on stage Friday, July 13, for the first show of the season at scenic Sand Harbor.It kicked off the 40th anniversary Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, on the Warren Edward Trepp stage, when the actors dealt with unfulfilled love, jealousy and troubled friendships.“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” features a timeless topic that always will affect people no matter their age, according to the actors.“I think we all probably, at some point, have experienced that kind of love sickness,” said actor Jeffrey C. Hawkins, who played Proteus, the gentlemen who forsakes his beloved Julia and later competes with his best friend Valentine for the affections of beautiful Silvia.His character Proteus is sent out by his father to discover the world and to grow up, even though he doesn't want to leave, since he was in love with the blond sweetheart Julia.“That's when all the problems begin in typical Shakespeare style,” producing artistic director Charles Fee said. “Proteus is more the romantic type of person, while Valentine is more adventurous.”As soon as Proteus gets to Milan, he falls in love with his best friend Valentine's love, Silvia, and betrays Valentine's plan to elope with Silvia before she gets married to Thurio, who the Duke wants his daughter to marry.Valentine therefore gets banished from Milan by the Duke and escapes into the forest. Hawkins explained that from being so influenced by his feelings for Silvia, Proteus turns from being the good guy into someone who is doing bad things at the end to achieve his goals. He loses himself, loses the connections to his love back home and eventually also faces another rival, Thurio, played by Eduardo Placer. “It's fun to play the guy who thinks he deserves the girl, but nobody thinks he does or nobody wants him to,” Placer said about his role. Silvia, who is still in love with Valentine, rejects the love of Thurio and Proteus and escapes into the forest to find her love, Valentine.“I don't think there is anything worse than unequaled love,” Hawkins said. “When you feel so deeply for someone and they don't give that back to you, it's probably one of the worst feelings in the world.”Even though all actors and musicians did an outstanding performance, the biggest attention-getter still was the actor with four paws on a leash.Michael, the secret star of the show, played Crab the Dog at the premiere and is actually a certified therapy dog in real life.“He was so popular because nobody expects a dog on stage,” marketing director Lee Weber-Koch said. Eleven dogs were auditioned before the final decision was made that Lark, a yellow Labrador retriever, and Michael, a boxer, landed the role. “We were looking for the cutest and the mellowest dog,” Fee said. Fee, who is at Lake Tahoe for the third season with the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, also directs the Shakespeare Festivals in Boise, Idaho, and Cleveland.Fee has worked with some of his actors year-round for more than 12 years, such as Hawkins and Neil Brookshire, who play the main characters. He is the one who decided what actors are getting switched out and hired for the particular shows and what settings will be used. “Tahoe has the most beautiful setting of any of the venues,” he said. “Probably the most beautiful setting in the world.”
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