On summer nights, not just here in Albuquerque or even across the country but around the world, actors take to the stage to deliver lines said millions of times over the centuries. Why? Haven’t we already heard these stories before? Don’t we all know by now that things work out poorly for both Romeo and Juliet in the end? The comedies and tragedies of Shakespeare are the primal blueprint for storytelling about human interactions. Experiencing them as a youth is instructive. Revisiting them as we get older is centering. Seeing them in the park with a picnic basket on a warm summer night is perfect.
This year the city of Albuquerque and the Vortex Theatre present Romeo & Juliet, directed by Peter Shea Kierst, and Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Shepard Sobel. The festival’s executive producer Leslee Richards says that this year the sets for both productions are minimal. Extensive sets for Shakespeare can be superfluous, plus there is always the threat of theft or vandalism in the public park productions. Look no further than a handful of Shakespearean characters to better understand the type of scum that would do something like that.
No one should need a recap of the story of Romeo and Juliet, but let it suffice to say that seeing the actual play live on an outdoor stage is better than whatever adapted manifestation you may have seen. So much more than a love story, even four centuries later it is filled with the language that we use to describe modern interactions.
Love’s Labour’s Lost brings us, among other things, the word Honorificabilitudinitatibus.
The New Mexico Shakespeare Festival is not being held at the Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque as in previous years, but at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial. The new location is an ideal and often overlooked venue for outdoor theater. The concrete theater is surrounded by green lawn. The audience is encouraged to bring a cushion or a blanket and invited to come early to walk the sculpture gardens, bring a picnic or find one on the food trucks.