Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed tale of thwarted love will unfold during Mardi Gras celebrations during this summer’s “Bard-i Gras on Bower” in Red Deer.
Prime Stock Theatre’s 2018 Bard on Bower season will also include rousing performances of Henry V — about an young English king who wins the Battle of Agincourt — and also captures the heart of the French princess.
Romeo and Juliet, starring Zach Running Coyote and Meegan Sweet as the doomed lovers, will begin June 12 on the outdoor stage at Bower Ponds, while Henry V, with Isiah Williams in the title role, will start July 19.
Henry V is one of Thomas Usher’s favourite plays — so he’s thrilled to be directing it for the first time in 20 years.
There’s also a loose Mardi Gras connection to this one, as it will begin with a troupe of contemporary actors at a New Orleans street festival enacting the story of the ambitious English monarch who fights to get land back from France, said Usher, artistic director of Prime Stock Theatre.
The climax of Henry V is the St. Crispin’s Day speech, which the ambitious young king uses to stir his troops for battle.
Its fiery poetry was made memorable by the Kenneth Branagh film: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/ Shall be my brother…” says King Henry, promising that those who fight for England will forever live in their country’s memory.
The power of this speech — written some 200 years after the battle at which English soldiers were outnumbered five to one — show Shakespeare at his best, said Usher.
He believes the play remains popular because the Bard successfully negotiated something that was perilous in his day — making a monarch seem like a regular, relatable person.
“He shows the king’s humanity.”
Bard on Bower’s battle scenes will be done to the sound of live drumming. There will also be a sweet — and rather comic — romance, when Henry woos the French princess with his slim grasp of her native tongue, added Usher, with a chuckle.
Romeo and Juliet, directed by guest director David Owen of Edmonton, will feature live music from a local band, led by Red Deer musician Morgan McKee.
Usher believes the production will make interesting use of masks and costumes along the Mardi Gras theme — with a touch of voodoo thrown in.
Both plays will run in repertoire with a cast of 13 actors until July 28 and 29. Admission is by donation ($20 suggested).
Anyone wanting a “preview” of what Bard on Bower’s all about can also catch a 45-minute version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is being performed at various parks around Red Deer until July 12.
For more information about dates and times, visit www.primestocktheatre.com.