‘Romeo and Juliet’ endures

StageWorks embraces the timeless play.

Ask people what the greatest fictional love stories are, and chances are “Romeo and Juliet” will be one of the top answers.

William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of forbidden love was so influential that it’s been redone countless times for other plays and films over the years, such as “West Side Story.” But the original has never gone out of style.

“There’s so much to worry about in the world we live in today, and this presents an idealistic love, one everybody has wanted,” said Lisa Howard-Welch, director of Springfield StageWorks upcoming production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

StageWorks’ presentation will be 8 p.m. April 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, and 3 p.m. April 5 at the State Theatre, 19 S. Fountain Ave.

Admission is $10 at the door. The production is recommended for ages 13-older.

“Romeo and Juliet” has a special meaning for Howard-Welch. It was the first show she performed in at age 14, portraying Juliet, boosting the confidence of an awkward teen and sparking her lifelong interest in theater.

She performed in the play several other times, directed at least four versions and costumed another. As a lasting legacy of her fascination, Howard-Welch even named her daughter Juliet.

“Especially for young people this story is accessible,” she said. “Many read it as their first Shakespeare play; it’s one of the easier plays to read. And some are experiencing these characters’ feelings for the first time. The forbidden love is always a little more exciting.”

She plans to vary this version a bit, setting it in the late 18th century in the Scottish Highlands and include the original language, but not doing dialect. Howard-Welch will also focus on some of the story’s underlying elements.

“It’s always focused on the love story before. But it also shows love isn’t perfect. There are consequences.”

The 13-actor cast is led by Greg King as Romeo and local actress Makenzie Jordan as Juliet. “They have great chemistry together,” said Howard-Welch. She said playing another noteworthy role is local physician Dr. Steve Morgenstern as Friar.

The male actors will be costumed in kilts, which Howard Welch-said makes the fight scenes easier, and joked that the ladies also appreciate the attire.

“Romeo and Juliet” is the final local theater show for Howard-Welch, who is moving to another state. She’s been involved in around 200 stage productions in the Springfield and Dayton area, having directed 75.

“I’m glad I’m able to end my career in local theater with ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ” she said.

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Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com.