UMF student actors Eli Mowry (Kennebunc) and Audrey Bradbury (Eastport) profess their love as Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON—Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet comes to life on the University of Maine at Farmington stage as Theatre UMF’s major theatre production for spring 2020. Performances will be held on campus in the UMF Alumni Theater at 7:30 p.m., Thursday–Saturday, March 5, 6 and 7, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 8.

Directed by award-winning playwright Jayne Decker, the classical Shakespearean tragedy will be performed in its original text, while set in a present-day environment, highlighting the timeless story of two star-crossed lovers in the midst of conflict without cause. “One of Shakespeare’s more well-known plays, the themes will speak to a modern audience,” said Decker.

The production is a huge commitment on everyone’s part with an impressive cast of 24, including students, faculty, staff and community members, according to Decker.

“In addition to their regular academics and work commitments, student actors from across campus are coming to five or six rehearsals a week along with music and choreography practice. The actors have embraced a performance discipline that is as challenging as it is rewarding,” she said.

Senior Hailey Craig dedicated herself to an independent study in mask design to provide the performance with an array of skillfully created classical masks.

Contemporary costumes coordinated by senior student Samantha Wood and student cast members, and urban set design by Stan Spilecki, resident scenic and lighting designer, bring a modern visual context to Shakespeare’s classical play.

An original musical score based on Elizabethan rhythmic ideas using modern instruments was created by UMF faculty member and composer Matthew Houston. UMF students Joshua Grant and Jeremy Tingdahl, Mt. Blue High School student Avery Jessen, and Houston help complete the on-stage ensemble as street musicians who play acoustic guitar, drums, ukulele, mandolin, and even the set itself during the performance.

“Composing for a theatre performance was a first for me,” said Houston. “I would bring my completed score to rehearsal and then adapt and compose on the spot to put the music in sync with the performance. It was a wonderful experience.”

Decker has directed numerous productions at UMF Alumni Theater. Her production, “Coyote on a Fence,” was awarded a Moss Hart Memorial Award by the New England Theatre Conference—New England’s oldest and largest regional theatre association.

She has also presented workshop productions of her original plays “Good Medicine;” “Stars Falling,” winner of the 2002 Maine Playwriting Award; “Jelly Moonshine;” and “Songbird,” a touring play about the Iraq War. “Cracked Shells,” an original play by Decker about domestic violence, was commissioned by Franklin County Network’s Peace in Our Families and was featured again at the 2009 Maine Women’s Studies Conference.

Admission for the performance is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students 18 and under, and $5 for UMF students with I.D. Tickets are available at the time of the performance and can be reserved by calling the Theatre UMF box office at (207) 778-7465. This Theatre UMF production is sponsored by the UMF Division of the Arts.

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