RYT takes on Shakespeare tragedy

By Bryanna Allen  |  Correspondent.

The local woods, fields and parks will soon be alive with the words of William Shakespeare.

The Rutland Youth Theatre is about to start its annual traveling troupe series of performances and this year the tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet,” will take the stage.

Between July 21 and Aug. 2, the students will perform a show each day at a different location in the Rutland region, a show that is free and open to all.

“We’ve done Shakespeare a lot in the past, but we’ve always leaned toward comedies. This year, I wanted to challenge the kids with a drama,” said Amberly Soto, director.

Another draw to this particular play is its popularity.

Soto said everyone knows this story, so it should bring in a large audience.

“It’s also challenging because it’s a love story, and that can be difficult for some 14-year-olds to portray, but they’re doing a great job,” she said.

Skyler Ambrose has the role of Juliet’s nurse, the role Ambrose said she wanted from the start.

“She’s a little vulgar,” Ambrose said, laughing. “She’s the comedian in the show, and Juliet’s caretaker. So she has this mix of being funny but also offering real comfort.”

Another challenge the actors have had to overcome is the language.

The play is performed in the original text, and Soto said some of the kids — and even adults — find it initially intimidating.

“Some of the kids have never even acted in front of an audience before,” she said. “And then they are thrown into the language of Shakespeare, and they have no idea what they’re even saying because to a lot of them, it honestly feels like a foreign language.”

But that is why Soto breaks it all down for them, making it easy to digest.

She sits down and goes through the script, scribbling notes and doing research. Then she helps the actors go through the script.

“I really encourage them to look up a translation. They can’t act out the emotions if they don’t fully understand what they’re saying.”

Ambrose said the translation exercises have basically been a lifesaver over her five years of Shakespeare plays with the Rutland Youth Theatre.

“Knowing what everything means is incredibly helpful, because then you can add the right emotion and body language,” she said. “I’ve gotten much more familiar and comfortable with Shakespeare.”

Saskia Hagen Groom, producer of the show, said going to a Shakespeare play is similar to going to an Italian opera.

“Most people don’t necessarily know what is being said all of the time, but they still understand the story because of the emotions.”

All of the shows are performed outside, to keep the experience “as authentic and close to Shakespeare as possible,” Hagen Groom said.

She explained that he was a man far ahead of his time, and that his performances were not always accepted and acted out on stages, but rather, in parks and town greens.

“He always used elaborate costumes. The costumes and the actors were what made the show, there was no need for a stage, especially since they were a traveling group,” she said.

That is why the Rutland Youth Theatre has performances in outdoor venues such as Pine Hill Park and in the gardens of the Lilac Inn in Brandon.

The audience is encouraged to bring chairs and blankets to enjoy the show. Each show also has a rain location, as this is Vermont and weather tends to happen, Hagen Groom said.

“It’s going to be a great show,” she said.

The show is free and open to everyone, with handicap accessibility at each location. Donations are always accepted and benefit the Rutland Youth Theatre.

For more information about the upcoming performances and other events, visit www.rutlandrec.com/theatre.