Shakespeare in the Park — Queens Style!

Shakespeare is coming to Forest Park! The newly formed Richmond Hill Park Players are giving two performances of “Romeo & Juliet” on Saturday and Sunday, August 13th and 14th, at the Forest Park Bandshell. Both performances begin at 8 P.M. and are free to the public.

“The hope in creating this company is to facilitate more opportunities for accessible art, especially theater, in our home community here in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill,” says Laura DePalo, the Artistic Director of Richmond Hill Park Players.

DePalo gained her early theatrical experience at Wayne State University in Michigan where she attained a B.F.A. in Acting Performance but she credits her involvement in local community groups for her growth as an artist.

“It was in community theater that I was able to explore all the various aspects of theater production and be welcomed, mentored, and exposed to the beauty of theater and the community surrounding each group,” she says.

“Now, as a community member living in Richmond Hill, I long to bring that experience here.”

The play stars Maximilian Johnsson and Jessica Lausell in the title roles. Johnsson (Romeo) came to the United States two years ago from Stockholm, Sweden and is a graduate of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. He has studied Shakespeare with distinguished mentors Elizabeth Sheperd and Jack Wetherall.

Jessica Lausell (Juliet) graduated BMCC with her A.S. in Theater and says that she is “honored to be in this production with this company in this gorgeous space!”

They will be joined on the nearly 100-year old stage by Jonas Barranca, Zach Bravo, Nicholas Costello, Ruben Dario Cruz, Mike Georg, Leah Hawthorne, Katelynn Kennedy Staggs, Meghan Lane, Sebastian LaPointe, JK Larkin, Sarah Manas, Coleen O’Driscoll, Morgan Ruis and Zen Tunsaringkran.

Behind the scenes, DePalo (who will also be taking the stage in the role of Friar Lawrence) is joined by Theresa McLoughlin (Production Manager), Kaitlyn Day (Costume Consultant), Nicole Bilbao (Movement & Intimacy Coordinator) and David Thomas Cronin (Creative Director). Actors Jonas Barranca and Zach Bravo also double as the Fight Choreographer and Fight Captain, respectively.

“Unanimously, our cast is excited to perform at the bandshell,” says DePalo.”Some members of our cast are not from the neighborhood, so they were astounded to learn of such a beautiful space to perform in, right here in Queens.”

“Others of our cast are from the neighborhood and are incredibly excited because they know there hasn’t been anything like this done before in this space, at least in their lifetime! The Parks Department has been so incredibly accommodating and it is going to be such a gorgeous experience to bring Shakespeare to life in the park, Queens Style!”

While the Forest Park Trust has brought several plays to this stage in recent years, I can’t remember the last time I saw live theater performed by a local troupe. It’s a great opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds.

DePalo says that this accessibility is what makes local community theater so special and important. “We know Broadway is a train ride and mucho bucks away, but theater is a vital and unique art. We can have heightened theatrical art right here in our backyard, with our very own community taking part in creating it. What’s better than that?”

As noted earlier, both performances of this show are free but if you would like to support this effort so that we can see more local productions in our area, they have started a Go Fund Me (https://gofund.me/e8f8505b) where they are asking for small donations from those who are inclined to support it.

You can learn more about the Richmond Hill Park Players and read bios of all involved at their website http://www.richmondhillparkplayers.com.

If you’ve never seen Romeo & Juliet live you are in for a treat. “We have a minimalist set concept,” explains DePalo. “This play has lots of fun moments. I believe this is the funniest play Shakespeare wrote, until it wasn’t and turned to tragedy! It has brilliant fight choreography, the works!”

We hope you’ll come out on Saturday and Sunday, August 13th and 14th, at the Forest Park Bandshell to support local theater and support all the people bringing this entertainment to our beautiful park.

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