BY REBECCA BENNETT — An evening of free music, dance and theater is coming to Magruder Park in Hyattsville on July 24, with other performance dates around Prince George’s County beginning July 15.

Photo courtesy Christopher Dwyer.

Two days before the show opened, the cast and crew of Romeo and Juliet held one of its final rehearsals in a tent outside of the picturesque Snow Hill Manor in Laurel.  The finished backdrop of fair Verona lay stacked on the floor — the tent too small to hold its presence.

The production is a post-modern, steampunk interpretation of the play, according to Artistic Director Christopher Dwyer.  “We like to meld movement into the storytelling,” he said.

This was evident during Monday’s rehearsal of the party scene where Romeo (Shane O’Loughlin) meets Juliet (Kashayna Johnson).  Several well-orchestrated near misses keep the star-crossed lovers from connecting as Juliet is pulled away by Paris (Rob Schumacher) and Tybalt (Ryan Sellars).  This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was choreographed by Synetic Theater’s Randy Snight.

Click here to see the full performance schedule.

Casey Kaleba, who the Hyattsville Wire reported in 2013 has ties to Hyattsville’s Historic District, is the show’s fight choreographer.  Tooth & Claw Combat’s website said Kaleba has choreographed violence for almost 400 productions. The Washington Post reported that Kaleba has been studying since 1992, working professionally in the field since 2000 and has worked on more than 20 productions of Romeo and Juliet.  “Casey has staged fights for knights, musketeers, princesses, zombies, wolves, pirates, ninjas, and at least one alien tentacle,” his bio says.  No aliens here — just a good ol’ longsword feud between Capulets and Montagues.

Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.
Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.

The show will also include live music, Dwyer said, including pre-show and intermission performances.

The Shakespeare in the Parks production, put on for the third year by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Division of the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, is done by paid actors.  Dwyer said they hired professional actors from Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.  Auditions were held in January, according to the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation website.

Dwyer, who works on the production with wife and stage manager Sarah Dwyer, graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from Catholic University in 2012.  Other cast and crew hail from the local alma mater, he said.

“One thing we keep trying to do is improve production value,” Dwyer said, referencing the show’s “monstrosity” they created last year.  It is the production’s split-level set that they break down and take with them to performances.  “It folds up into the truck nicely,” he said.

The show is 1 hour and 40 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.  There is a pre-show, Dwyer said, and the play begins at 7:30 p.m.