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Romeo & Juliet opens in Keizer Wednesday

Of the Keizertimes

Director Linda Baker wants audiences of Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s performances of Romeo and Juliet to hear the William Shakespeare play with new ears.

“Speeches we all memorized, scenes we did in English, suddenly they are going to hear them and all of it’s going to come into focus,” Baker said. “You’ll suddenly realize that’s what that means. We’ve been working very hard at the intention as opposed to just the language. We haven’t changed anything. It’s traditional but we’re looking at it as a play that is something besides a lesson. It’s a play to entertain.”

Opening night is Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Keizer Rotary Amphitheater stage at Keizer Rapids Park.

Additional shows are July 20-22.

The annual Shakespeare in the Park event is free. However, donations are welcome.

Baker wanted to go young with casting the show’s two leads. Spence Logan, a 2017 graduate of West Salem High School, is playing Romeo, while Natalie Doerfler, an incoming junior at Western Oregon University, is portraying Juliet.

Both are new to Keizer Homegrown but have been acting for years.

Logan, who has received a theatre scholarship to Long Island University in New York, started when he was just 7 years old.

“Everyone here is so great,” Logan said. “They’re all working so, so hard and I think it’s going to be a great production.”

Romeo and Juliet is Logan’s second Shakespeare show after performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at West Salem.

Playing an emotional Romeo has been a challenge.

“He is so complicated because he switches between emotional states so frequently,” Logan said. “At the very beginning he’s depressed and down in the dumps. He sees Juliet and all of the sudden he’s the happiest he’s ever been. Then he gets banished and all of the sudden he’s down again. It’s a really complex character. It’s also accompanied with some tough but also the most beautiful Shakespeare language ever.”

Natalie, the granddaughter of Keizerites Carol and Martin Doerfler, is a self-described Shakespeare nerd. She’s been in three other Shakespeare plays, taken two classes at Western Oregon and is a regular attendee of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

“I really like Shakespeare but I’m still nervous to play Juliet just because I think people go into classic shows like Romeo and Juliet with preconceived misconceptions,” Doerfler said. “I want to try to break those down and well as provide a good show to the audience. I’m going to try to do multiple things on stage and I hope that it’s working so far.”

The rest of the cast includes former McNary drama students Justin Wanner as Tybalt, Jordan Reid as Mercutio, Nicholas Hikes as Sampson and Ryver Nakayoshi as Balthazar. Keizer City Councilor Laura Reid is playing Lady Montague. Lyndon Zaitz, publisher of the Keizertimes, is portraying apothecary.

“They are really welcoming people,” Doerfler said of the cast. “I was nervous the first day because I only knew Linda going in. I didn’t know anyone. Getting to know everyone, not only by how they act but how they are as people is really an interesting experience and I’ve really enjoyed it and making a new group of family members.”