Quill’s “Romeo and Juliet” Lights Up Outdoor Stage at Agecroft Hall

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    Due to popular demand, Quill Theatre is remounting its production of Romeo and Juliet, weekends through June 24 at Agecroft Hall, as part of the twentieth annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival.

    The stage is set at Agecroft Hall, a Tudor manor house that was built in the late 15th century in England, and in the early 20th century, dismantled, crated, and transported across the Atlantic to be rebuilt in what is now a suburban Richmond neighborhood. If you haven’t found your way to the Richmond Shakespeare Festival over the course of its twenty years, this is the perfect way to experience the classics – especially if you have a student who has recently enjoyed (or yes, bemoaned) studying The Bard’s work in the classroom.

    For showtimes and tickets, go here.

    Photo by Aaron Sutten

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    Summer nights in Richmond are unpredictable to say the least. Of course, weather is a factor, and there are other questions related to the outdoor stage at Agecroft Hall. Quill Theatre has a plan to address every contingency:

    Do I need to bring my own chair No, there is stadium style seating in the courtyard. The seats have backs, but no cushion. Feel free to bring one! You may bring a chair to picnic on the grounds.

    Is there accessible seating available? Yes! Please give the box office notice if you will require accessible seating, and the staff will mark off enough seats for you and your party in the appropriate section. The Box Office can be reached at 804-340-0115.

    Is seating general admission, and what time should I arrive to get a good seat?Seating is general admission. You can arrive as early as 6 pm to picnic on the grounds before the show. The box office will open at 7:00 pm. To ensure a good seat, you should arrive no later than 7:15 pm.

    What if it rains?

    If it’s raining before the show… Decisions about postponing or cancelling a show due to weather will be made between 7:00 and 7:25 pm, depending on weather forecasts.

    If it rains during the show… the show will pause, and you will be escorted inside to wait for up to 15 minutes to see if the weather will let up. If we can’t go on, then…

    • If we stopped before intermission, you have a choice: 1) full refund at point of purchase OR 2) voucher to return on another night

    • If the play is rained out after intermission, you will receive a voucher only. Please note: you must be present to receive a rain voucher.

    How can I use my rain voucher? To use your rain voucher, please call the Quill Box Office at 804-340-0115 to arrange your new tickets. You will need to present the rain voucher at the Box Office in order to pick up your new tickets. Please note: Rain vouchers may only be used for Festival performances and are non-transferable to future Quill performances unless otherwise indicated.

    Is there a restaurant or food options on the grounds? There isn’t a restaurant on the grounds, but there is a concession stand, which sells soft drinks, waters, and various snacks before the show and at intermission. Sara Lou’s SnoBalls will be onsite for every performance selling New Orleans Style SnoBalls. Additionally, Garden Grove Brewery of Carytown will be onsite for the second weekend of each show pouring a custom beer, created exclusively for the Festival! A portion of sales from these vendors will benefit Quill Theatre and Agecroft Hall.

     

    Romeo and Juliet is This Year’s Must-See Shakespeare

    Original review by Sam Schwartzkopf

    In this unique take on Shakespeare’s most popular tragedy, Quill Theatre continues its tradition of asking audience members to reevaluate their original conception of what makes the Bard’s stories so resonant and impervious to the massive cultural differences between 1500s England and 21st Century Richmond. Quill has mastered the art of translating the texts read in middle school English classes into believable, emotionally captivating, and hilarious performances. The implicit stage directions scattered throughout Shakespeare’s complex prose are teased out brilliantly in this sophisticated, yet engaging production of Romeo and Juliet at VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater.

    In Quill’s chosen spring production, just as in countless other productions, Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet Capulet. The lovers, linked by love at first sight and barred by society’s arbitrary expectations, marry in secret after one night of knowing each other. The young couple must contend with a bitter family rivalry, an impending marriage arrangement, and a few murders along the way to their tragic end. There are no spoilers left for Shakespeare’s most popular play.

    In fact, the familiarity of the show almost encourages trepidation from an audience member seasoned in Shakespeare. I went to the show wondering how exactly it would be different from the countless variations of the story of star-crossed lovers I’d seen before. I cringed thinking of its most hackneyed lines. (Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?) So I was pleasantly surprised when the stellar cast breathed new life into Shakespeare’s most quoted lines. Juliet and her Romeo, played by Liz Earnest and Nate Ritsema respectively, offered a picture of love genuine enough to entangle the audience in their brief daydream of happily-ever-after and naive enough to brew an emphatic sense of dread. The chemistry was perfectly in tune with the play’s central themes. Earnest, especially, lent a youthful wistfulness to the role without fully overshadowing the underlying cunning of her character.

    Supporting performances provided the backbone of the play. Josh Williams as the boisterous Tybalt and Matt Bloch as the measured Benvolio displayed a breathtaking knowledge of stage-fighting. The choreography was graceful and their execution frighteningly, exhilaratingly life-like. Matt Shofner as Mercutio and Melissa Johnston Price as Nurse elicited consistent laughs, applying to Shakespeare’s words an enviable comedic timing that had me understanding jokes I’d never caught before. That’s not to say any of the performers verged on tropes; in a play so ridden with tragedy, each performer displayed an impressive range. This speaks to the masterful direction of James Ricks and the overall development of the relatively young Quill organization.

    Romeo and Juliet addresses some serious themes, including family rivalries, street violence, arranged marriage, and suicide. However, in Romeo and Juliet, Quill provides an approachable, digestible introduction to the beauty of Shakespearean prose. This production avoids the tempting tendency to modernize Shakespeare. Instead, it applies an indubitably well-rounded troupe to a beautifully written play, the themes of which still hold relevance today.

    [Photos by Aaron Sutten]

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    Karen Schwartzkopf
    Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.