Steven McMahon, Ballet Memphis' inventive choreographic assistant, used an open rehearsal for Romeo & Juliet to provide a crowd of curiosity seekers with a lesson in how the simplest gestures can make all the difference. "Don't look at the audience," he told Juliet, who consistently finished a move with a crowd-charming smile. "They'll still be there even if you're not looking," the choreographer added, teasing his dancer a bit. "But I need you to turn a little further and look back at Romeo, okay?" Unlike the character she was playing, the dancer did as she was told, and as the couple's eyes locked, there was heat and a smattering of light applause. Here at last were Shakespeare's tragic lovers, too young to understand the consequences of their actions.
Ballet Memphis' production of Romeo & Juliet, which runs at Playhouse on the Square from April 9th to 17th, is but one of several interpretations of Shakespeare's work appearing on Memphis stages in the month of April. A finely detailed take on Twelfth Night — directed by Nick Hutchison, who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre — closes at Rhodes' McCoy Theatre next weekend. Hutchison's production is bolstered by some fine comic performances by community actors Stephen Garrett as the prudish Malvolio and Donald Jellerson as Feste, the musical clown with a taste for adult beverages.
Richard III, an unflinching study in evil and ambition — and a play seldom seen in these parts — opens at Theatre Memphis on April 8th with University of Memphis professor Greg Boller as Shakespeare's misshapen prince of darkness. All of this is a prelude to the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's Romeo & Juliet, which opens April 27th at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens.