Eleanor Cook (back) plays Julia and Isabel Donati-Simmons

Eleanor Cook (back) plays Julia and Isabel Donati-Simmons

Vibrant young stars to shine in Shakespeare Kelowna’s new play

The Two Gentlemen of Verona features Kelowna Secondary School stars, trying to steal the show back from the cast dog—Copper

  • Jul. 31, 2012 6:00 p.m.

It’s a stunning setting, in a veteran organization’s production and the stars didn’t even know they were auditioning for it when spotted for their roles.

If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you just might recognize the actors in Shakespeare Kelowna’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, showing at The Vibrant Vine this weekend.

The leads were plucked from Kelowna Secondary School’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream after director Stephen Jefferys saw them in the play this past school year.

“I must say, they are all very good,” said Jefferys. “The experience of working with Neal Facey shows and …being young people, they’re all very physically active. So to see them running up and down and throwing themselves all over the stage, it is very effective.”

Facey is the longtime Kelowna Secondary School teacher who retired from his position with the school this year and went straight into rehearsal for the new Kelowna Summer Theatre Society’s repertoire production downtown. His plays are showing over the same period outside the Rotary Centre for the Arts, though there isn’t a “wherefore art thou” in the lot.

For Shakespeare, one will have to go to the wineries to see a play that doesn’t generally make a Shakespeare company’s hit list.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s first comedy and really focuses on the type of physical comedy young, fit actors might really be able to add a special shine to; although there is a lot of depth to this cast as well.

From the 83-year-old actor to the newspaper reporter-cum-actor, Don Plant, to lawyer Paul Henry, who is becoming known for playing dukes, to Englishman Rod Shuttlewood, the cast has the experience to match the excitement and offers a few friendly, familiar faces to an oft under-rated story.

“A lot of people say it’s not one of Shakespeare’s better plays, but I saw it in Vancouver five years ago and thought it was very funny,” said Jefferys, noting Shakespeare Kelowna has done just about every other play Shakespeare wrote and he still likes this storyline.

“It’s a little ménage a trio,” he explained. “Too many in love with the same woman.”

As it happens, it’s also the only Shakespeare play with a dog and the Jack Russell terrier playing the role has grown quite accustomed to his new spot on stage.

“He was a bit scared at first, but now he’s very self-confident,” said Jefferys, laughing that he can now claim to have trained a dog in Shakespeare.

Once a dog is on stage, people are just going to watch the dog, so incorporating fido was a bit of a risk.

Founded in 1993, Shakespeare Kelowna thankfully has the experience to make risks work and Jefferys admits little is ever left to chance. This is their second year playing at The Vibrant Vine, for example, though they knew Shakespeare among the vines would likely go over well because they had been playing at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in years gone by.

For Avery Kirk, Brett Thomas, Eleanor Crook and Cassandre Bouthillier, the KSS student stars, getting picked out of a high school production isn’t much risk at all. The young actors will get to sparkle among the psychedelic art in a play that bubbles like champagne thanks to the invitation Jefferys extended to auditiion.

Tickets are $25 at the door or available online through Shakespeare Kelowna. The play runs Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1-4, at Vibrant Vines, 3240 Pooley Road in East Kelowna.


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