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Students present 'Romeo and Juliet'

September 15, 2010 - Two weeks ago, Jordan Reynolds was worried.

Lines were far from memorized, scenes were sloppy and everything seemed disorganized.

But then, as if by magic, the pieces she'd worked since June to assemble into a first-rate production of William Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' finally began fitting together.

"I'm really proud of my cast," said Reynolds, a LOHS senior who's also president of the Lake Orion Thespian Society and head director for the group's production of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy.

"They've really stepped up to the task and worked hard all summer – and it's not easy showing up for rehearsal three days a week when school's out and you really just want a break."

Lake Orion Thespian Society is one of many Michigan high school chapters of the International Thespian Society, which encourages students to hone skills in every aspect of theater by producing their own shows, start to finish.

The group puts together at least one play each year, said Reynolds, who moved to Lake Orion from Kentucky and started at LOHS in her sophomore year.

"The first thing I did was get involved with theater," she said. "It's always the most accepting group of kids at any school."

Last year, she served as treasurer of the thespian club and was elected president at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 school year.

Romeo and Juliet Civic Center Park Saturday, Sept.18, 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19 Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m. $5 for students (and adults who bring a lawn chair), and $7 for those who need a chair provided
"It's been very hard directing my peers," Reynolds said during a rehearsal Monday, noting the play is family friendly – to a point.

Believed written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597.

"There is some tragedy – there's the suicide," she said. "But no gore. We purposely decided against fake blood or anything like that."

The play, among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime, portrays two young lovers whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding families.

Reynolds paused, looking toward the group of young people dressed as various Montagues and Capulets, nurses, watchmen, friars, musicians and other citizens of Verona, rehearsing near a rented set in Orion Township's Civic Center Park, each taking respective roles quite seriously.

"Louder, August," she said. "I can hardly hear you."

Romeo complies, and she returns.

"They don't look to you as an authority figure, they look to you as a friend – and a lot of them are my friends."

Close friends, like Tahra Gribbin, one of Reynolds' four co-directors.

Like Reynolds, she's also a senior at LOHS, and like Reynolds, she's passionate about acting, theater and her role in the upcoming production.

"We held auditions in late June and we've been working nonstop ever since," said Gribbin, who in addition to her role as co-director is also cast as Capulet. "It's been difficult, but a great experience, and I know I've grown and improved over the summer. We all have."

Working through the various challenges, like trying to get the set they wanted, and trying to get the venue they wanted – Civic Center Park – was a rewarding experience.

"Being able to direct is one of the most empowering and best experiences of my life," Gribbin said. "It's more than I could ask for, and I couldn't be more pleased."

The production stars August Lile as Romeo and Marisa Martini as his ill-fated lover, Juliet what the students bill as a "tragic tale of love and loss."

Winning the role of Juliet, said Martini, an LOHS senior, caught her unawares.

"I wasn't expecting to get a big part," she said. "It was really surprising."

But several months of hard work have paid off, and she's feeling confident and ready to present the world – all of Lake Orion, anyway – with her interpretation of Juliet.

"I'm really excited about the performance," she said. "Some of the play's more emotional monologues have been a challenge – you have to tap into not only your acting, but also into how you're portraying the character. I've definitely grown in my performance since the beginning."

Leadership, she noted, was key.

"Jordan's been really patient," Martini said. "She's laid down the rules, but allowed us to have freedom and encouraged our growth as actors and actresses."

Junior Alexis Attinoto, who plays Nurse to Juliet, agreed.

"It's student run, so we have more opportunity to feed off one another," she said. "Jordan gives us a lot of leash and a lot of creative freedom, but we also learn to respect one another, because for this to work, we have to."

For Rawley Van Fossen, a senior, the concept of 'creative freedom' is what draws him to acting in the first place.

"It gives me a chance to express myself on stage and show people a different side of who I am," said Van Fossen, who's cast in the role of Montague.

Whatever their individual reasons for coming together on the stage, Head Director Jordan Reynolds hopes the community will turn out this weekend to see what her actors have accomplished.

And it's about community. "We're not a traveling company," she said. "This is your child, your neighbor, your friend putting on this production in your park."

Lake Orion Review Editor
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