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Expect unexpected Wooden O casting this summer

Seattle Shakespeare's Wooden O program brings plays to parks come rain or shine. Credit: Photo courtesy of Wooden O

Seattle Shakespeare’s outdoor performing company, Wooden O, takes to Northwest parks with two gender-bending productions this summer. For 2019, they will present an all-male Twelfth Night and a Romeo and Juliet comprised of female and non-binary artists.

For five weeks starting July 11, both shows will travel to 16 different park venues to offer 43 free performances in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Last summer the Wooden O shows were seen by nearly 12,000 individuals and families.

Director Mary Machala gave personal reasons for her casting choices in Twelfth Night. “I have many reasons why I wanted to do this show as an all-male cast, but the main reason is that I have a 24-year-old son, and I think men have taken it on the chops for the last couple of years,” said Machala. “I think a lot of young men in their 20s are kind of lost and they kind of don’t know what foot to stand on. And so, quite frankly, I’m doing this show for my son.”

Machala’s production borrows from various eras of pirates and swaggerers, from the Cavalier period all the way through to Adam Ant of the 1980s. “We are going to rebel!” said Machala. “This is a party, and it is a party for twelve days, of which this is the last day. So we are partying as hard as we can and as often as we can. It’ll be macho and sexy and dangerous and fun.”

The full cast for Twelfth Night includes Eric Ray Anderson (Sir Toby Belch), Charles Antoni (Sea Captain/Ensemble), Nick Edwards (Antonio), Jerik Fernandez (Feste), Chad Kelderman (Malvolio), Jason Marr (Orsino), Benjamin McFadden (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Michael Monicatti (Viola), Christopher Morson (Maria), Tré Scott (Valentine/Curio/Ensemble), Brandon J. Simmons (Olivia), and Andy Walker (Sebastian).

Romeo and Juliet director Leah Adcock-Starr confessed that she has had a long-standing love affair with Shakespeare’s ode to star-crossed romance. “I fell in love with this play when I was 13 years old because I recognized myself in its pages. I see myself in Mercutio’s sarcasm and Tybalt’s righteous anger. In the way Romeo and Juliet tumble headlong into love then wonder if they’re doing the right thing. I see myself in the grown-ups who try to do the right thing and then really, really mess it up over and over again. In this way this play becomes the most beautiful mirror we get to hold up,” said Adcock-Starr.

Blending touches of Elizabethan silhouettes and details with modern day dress, Adcock-Starr’s Romeo and Juliet will strive to deliver “the romp and the sex and the heat and the fun and the sword fights along with the language that glitters like stars,” said Adcock-Starr. “All of the beauty and all of the brutality. It’s a play that has it all, and I dig it.”

Romeo and Juliet’s full cast includes Shanna Allman (Tybalt), Ana María Campoy (Montague), Lexi Chipman (Juliet), Sarah Dennis (Balthazar/Ensemble), Alyssa Franks (Lady Capulet), Kathy Hsieh (Nurse), Tracy Michelle Hughes (Capulet), Jonelle Jordan (Mercutio), Elizabeth Keck (Samson/Ensemble), Imogen Love (Friar), Erica Matthews (Abram), Natalie Modlin (Gregory/Ensemble), Sofía Raquel Sánchez (Romeo), Carrie Schnelker (Escalus), Annie Willis (Paris), and Maile Wong (Benvolio).

Set designs for both productions will be by Craig B. Wollam. Costumes for Romeo and Juliet will be by Jocelyne Fowler and Kelly McDonald will design costumes for Twelfth Night. Robertson Witmer will design sound for Twelfth Night and Steven Tran will design sound for Romeo and Juliet.

“There is this sense of purpose and guidance that I find in the words of William Shakespeare,” said George Mount, the artistic director of Wooden O, who has led these productions for 26 years. “To share stories, to share commonalities, to share differences, to gather as a community to cry, to laugh, to argue, to celebrate, and to break bread together, in the park with a picnic.”

Wooden O performances are free and open to the public. All performances take place between July 11 to August 11.

Wooden O performances are free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged after the show. For more about Seattle Shakespeare's summer season, see Encore Spotlight.