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Shakespeare features pair of classics this summer

Rick Chandler

By Karyn Casl’s own admission, Lady Capulet was never ready to be a mom.

“I find her interesting in a lot of ways, one of which is that she is just a young mother who isn’t equipped to make important decisions,” said Casl, who plays the classic character from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at this year’s Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor. The Foothill Theater Company presents the play on 17 separate dates beginning Friday, July 13 and running through August 27.

Foothill will also produce Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” and the contemporary comedy “Greater Tuna” during the same two months. “Greater Tuna” is directed by Carolyn Howarth, who also has the title acting role in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“One of the reasons that this play is still popular 400 years later is that Shakespeare is writing about utterly modern concepts,” said Casl, who has been with the Foothill Theater Company, based in Nevada City, for eight years. In Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Lady Capulet is the mother of Juliet, Romeo’s forbidden love.

“What people sometimes forget is that in the play, Juliet is only 13 years old,” Casl said. “We sometimes project our own modern sensibilities to that, but that’s the age that people got married then.

“Juliet’s mother is in her late 20s; an upper-class young woman who is really more interested in having a best friend to play dress-up with than she is in being a mother,” Casl said. “So when it comes to be crunch time and she has to make important decisions about her child’s well being, she can’t do it.”

At its heart, Romeo and Juliet is about making those tough choices, Casl said. And that really resonates with a modern audience.

“Every child rebels, all parents struggle to do what’s right, and families still have rivalries and drama and warring factions,” Casl said. “You can set this play in any time, anywhere; and of course that’s been done. It’s utterly modern. And of course it’s just beautiful. It’s some of the greatest poetry of all time.”

The players are just wrapping rehearsals, which have been going on since early June, six days a week, eight-to-12 hours per day. After the Tahoe engagement, the company will take the play to Nevada City for three weeks.

Casl was born in Southern California and grew up in Sacramento.

“My parents were both opera singers, and I was interested in theater from very early on,” she said. “It was during high school that I figured out that this is what I wanted to do.”

The biggest challenge in performing Romeo and Juliet? It may sound strange, but it centers around not giving away the ending.

“Of course just about everyone knows how it ends,” Casl said. “But the challenge is telling the story and not telegraphing the ending. You have to trick the audience anyway; get them hoping that somehow, some way, the protagonists don’t end up dying after all.”

But it’s just possible that some of the people at the Sand Harbor venue won’t know how it ends. Casl estimates that on any given night, 30 to 50 percent of the audience will have never seen a Shakespeare play.

“Some of those have possibly never seen a play of any kind,” Casl said. “That’s just the feeling I get; a vibrancy in the audience that they are seeing something completely new.”

And she envies them that.

“The thing that struck me most about the film “Shakespeare in Love” is that it depicted the moment that “Romeo and Juliet” was performed for the first time,” she said. “I often wonder what it would be like to go back in time and see that play, not knowing how it would end.

“That would be something. If you could experience “Romeo and Juliet” for the very first time and not be moved by it, then you can’t be human.”

Information on the three Tahoe Shakespeare Festival productions is available at (800) 74-SHOWS, or at http://www.laketahoeshakespeare.com/.


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