The opening of Romeo & Juliet takes on a special significance when performed at GreenStage’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park. The play opens with a lovely little prologue summarizing the “two hours’ traffic of our stage” — the “star-crossed lovers,” their “misadventured piteous overthrows,” their “death-marked love.” It concludes:
“The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”
It’s a bit of an obscure couplet. In the original play, it’s about the ability of performance to enliven a simple plot — ”what here shall miss,” or what the prologue lacks, the “toil” of acting will try to fill in.
At Shakespeare in the Park, it’s also a promise. The fact of performing in a public park, with an open-air stage and makeshift sound system, is that the audience will miss things: facial expressions, lines of verse. GreenStage manages to overcome all that. Even if you don’t hear every word or aside of Romeo & Juliet, the capable cast and imaginative production keep the show on, no matter what.
Seeing that show is simple, no ticket or reservation required. GreenStage’s Shakespeare in the Park runs all summer, with three different plays performed at varying locations around Seattle. Simply show up, sit back, and enjoy some Shakespeare.
It can also be worthwhile to bring along a copy of the play you’re seeing, especially if it’s one whose plot is less well-known than Romeo & Juliet. In any case, it’s the actors that make the old text comprehensible and engaging, and every actor is doing an admirable job enlivening the script and acting all the way to the back of the very sprawling outdoor crowd. Joe Moore and Jasmine Harrick make a lively and charming Romeo and Juliet, respectively. Another standout is Gail Javarah Wamba’s hilarious Nurse.
Part of what makes Shakespeare in the Park so special is the crowd. It would be easy to spot people aged seven to seventy there, from older theatergoers with their camping chairs and paper copies of the play to young adults sprawled out on picnic blankets on dates, to little kids doing their best to sit still. You get the sense that everyone there wants to be there; no one goes to free outdoor theater out of pretentiousness or obligation after having purchased an expensive ticket.
I recommend arriving early, both to secure a spot with a clear view and to people-watch. Shakespeare in the Park is a fun crowd. And who knows, you may find yourself people-watched in turn — all the world’s a stage, after all, as another one of Shakespeare’s plays reminds us (unfortunately, GreenStage isn’t putting on The Tempest, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, this year).
Every time I watch Romeo & Juliet, I forget what happens at the end. I can’t help it: as I watch the two teenagers flirt and fall in love, in all their ridiculousness, it seems that they’ll get the happy ending they deserve. Romeo & Juliet is a play poking fun at passionate adolescent love, but it’s also about the power of young people to surpass the generations before them in their connection and kindness — even if that brings them to an untimely end. So, grab your tissues, and your pasta (see below), and get thee to Shakespeare in the Park, performing live through the end of August.
Haley’s Picnic Pasta Salad
1 container store-bought tortellini
1 head broccoli or ½ bunch asparagus, cut into florets or small pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup walnuts or other nut
½ avocado (optional)
Chopped cilantro, to taste (more is better)
Make the dressing: crush or finely mince garlic, and put in a small bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and whisk to combine.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions. Add broccoli or asparagus for the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain and run under cold water.
Toast walnuts in a pan until browned all over. Let cool.
Combine pasta, vegetable, walnuts and cilantro in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Just before serving (or just before leaving for Shakespeare in the Park), dice avocado and add to salad. Serve cold or at room temperature.