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November 16, 2004

National Players to present Romeo and Juliet Dec. 3 at Cowley


Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s first non-historical tragedy and, in many ways the richest and most mature of his early works, will be performed at Cowley College on Dec.3.

The National Players perform a scene from Romeo and JulietThe National Players perform a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Heartland Arts at Cowley, the cultural arts series at the college and underwritten by Home National Bank, is sponsoring the tour group National Players from the Washington, D.C. area. The group will perform the story at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert Brown Theatre inside the Brown Center for Arts, Sciences and Technology on the Arkansas City campus. Workshops involving hundreds of area students will take place in the morning and afternoon prior to the show.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students K-12. They are on sale now at the Sid Regnier Bookstore, 207 W. Fifth Ave., or by calling (620) 441-5277.

Written in the mid-1590s and first published in 1597, Romeo and Juliet bears many of the characteristics of Shakespeare’s early work, with frequent use of end-rhymes and an abundance of descriptive, metaphoric imagery.

Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, he didn’t even introduce the story into the English language. Forgotten author Arthur Brooks first brought the story of Romeus and Juliet to an English-speaking audience in a long and plodding poem that was itself nor original, but rather an adaptation of adaptations that stretched across nearly 100 years and two languages.

Many of the details of Shakespeare’s plot are lifted directly from Brooks’ poem, including the meeting of Romeo and Juliet at the ball, their secret marriage, Romeo’s fight with Tybalt, the sleeping potion, and the timing of the lover’s eventual suicides.

National Players has existed since 1949 as a bridge for young actors who, after completing an academic experience, are eager to find pathways into the professional arena. Tour gives actors opportunities and experiences that enable them to explore and develop their craft, as well as to share their love of theatre with audiences of all ages. The company’s focus in rehearsal is “to tell the story of the play” while sharpening skills and promoting interaction with fellow actors.

Currently a program of Olney Theatre Center, National Players has earned a unique name and place in American theater. After 53 consecutive seasons of touring, this remarkable acting company has given approximately 5,875 performances and workshops on plays by Shakespeare, O’Neill, Moliere, Shaw, Kafka, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Tom Stoppard and Peter Shaffer. National Players has performed for the public in 35 states and 10 foreign countries, reaching young audiences in areas that are isolated geographically or economically; audiences that would otherwise never see quality live performances of classic plays.

While National Players has a proven track record for developing young theatrical talent (an astonishing 70 percent of National Players veterans are working in the theater or related fields), it also is committed to the development of young theater audiences. Several workshops are scheduled for Dec. 3 in the Brown Center. They include scene analysis, stage combat and improvisation at 2 p.m.; voice and movement, scene analysis, and improvisation at 3 p.m.; and scene analysis and stage combat at 4 p.m. Many students from area schools will participate in the workshops. The performance for the public will be at 7:30 p.m.

Workshop descriptions:

Stage Combat. This is a specialty workshop in the rudiments of illusion and the techniques of physicalizing effective stage fights. Players demonstrate the techniques of stage combat: hand-to-hand and sword fighting. Students are instructed in the basic elements and safety precautions used in stage fighting.

Voice and Movement. Often conducted with the acting workshop, Players demonstrate various exercises they use to keep the voice and body in performance shape. Basic stage movement is demonstrated.

Scene Analysis. Designed for the classroom, Players discuss the particular play to be performed. They demonstrate various scenes and discuss interpretations. This workshop is arranged and planned to introduce the students to a live performance of a classic.

Located just north of Washington, D.C., in arts-rich Montgomery County, Maryland, Olney Theatre Center for the Arts offers a diverse array of professional productions year-round that enrich, nurture and challenge a broad range of artists, audiences and students. One of two state theaters of Maryland, OTC is situated on 14 acres in the heart of the beautiful Washington-Baltimore-Frederick “triangle,” within easy access of all three cities.