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'R&J:' Swords and Sewing Machines

The F/X Players are putting on "Romeo and Juliet" for its Fall production. I know what you're thinking. What in the world do high school students know about Shakespeare?

Quite a bit, actually. Not only is "R&J" required reading for ninth-graders at Fairfax High, but every Tuesday the F/X Players have a Fairfax alumna, Sarah Denhardt, who has taught theater and directed, stop in and give "Shakespeare lessons" to major characters and anyone else who wishes to learn to speak and comprehend Shakespeare properly. These can be fun. They can also not be so fun. Depends on if you learned your lines or not.

The biggest project we have going on for "R&J" is actually two projects: the set and the costumes. Costumes are personally, my favorite part of any Shakespearean production. Only genuine Elizabethan costume would do for the timeless tale of the star-crossed lovers, and our costume designer, Mauren Pereira, refused to even think about renting costumes. She goes about her job with such enthusiasm and joy that it's contagious. That's good, since outfitting 40 plus characters in Elizabethan garb is a very, very big job. She and her faithful crew have about six weeks to do just that.

So that's the biggest projects in terms of wow, that's a lot.

However, the biggest project in strict terms of size is the set. Not only does it completely stretch across the 50-foot stage, but it's got a two-story balcony sitting at center stage and a thrust built out into the orchestra pit, so the audience can see every sweatdrop of the action.

Action! Do you know how much of that is in this play? Swords clash for the first time about five minutes after we open and the fight only gets better after Tybalt (Justin Vitalis) slices off Benvolio's (Rami Maarouf) ear. That's right, his ear and that's just the first fight. This mesmerizing stage choreography is completely orchestrated by our director, Bob Smith, who teaches at The Institute for the Arts during the summer. He's also responsible for amassing the "best cache of stage weapons in the county." So not only are there lots of fights, but almost every male character has some sort of blunt, shiny object.

But it's not all pretty clothes and gore at Fairfax. The most important thing about Shakespeare is the characters. From Romeo and Juliet (David Hazel and Allison Korb) to the Apothocary (Kimmon Williams), every role is filled with the person best suited to play it. These excellent casting decisions were made by Smith, with help from our stage manager, James Waters. Our technical director (the person who keeps the lights working and the set from falling down) is Morgan Sexton.

We're performing on Nov. 21, 22, and 23. Times and tickets can be found at www.fxplayers.org