Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces the cast and creative team for the Theater’s upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, staged by Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, October 31–December 22, 2019. The production features Edgar Miguel Sanchez and Brittany Bellizeare as the star-crossed young lovers, joined by a talented ensemble cast of 25, which includes Nate Burger, Cage Sebastian Pierre, Sam Pearson, Betsy Aidem, Darlene Hope, James Newcomb, Lia D. Mortensen, Dale Rivera, and Brianna Buckley.
At the outset of Romeo and Juliet, senseless violence between the Montagues and the Capulets—the cause long forgotten—threatens to rip the city of Verona apart. Amidst this backdrop of hatred, two young people risk everything to be together. Director Barbara Gaines shares, “I’ve set the story in the heat of the summer in the not-too-distant future of August 2020—in a Verona that could be any city in the world. In truth, I want to set it in the future because my enduring hope is that the ultimately tragic outcome we witness onstage can yet be changed for the future of all our children.”
Leading the production are Edgar Miguel Sanchez as Romeo and Brittany Bellizeare as Juliet. Sanchez has notably appeared in Sweat and stop. reset. at the Goodman Theatre, Water by the Spoonful and Native Son at Court Theatre, and The Wheel at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In addition to performing in Aaron Posner and Teller’s acclaimed production of Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare, Sanchez has extensive Shakespeare credits at American Players Theatre and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A graduate of the New School for Drama and The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, Bellizeare’s regional credits include Guthrie Theater’s The Bluest Eye, Two River Theater’s King Hedley II and Seven Guitars, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s The Last Tiger in Haiti—which garnered the NAACP Theatre Awards nomination for Best Ensemble.
Nate Burger portrays Romeo’s close friend Mercutio. A nine-year core company member with American Players Theatre, Burger has portrayed a wide span of Shakespeare’s characters, including Cassio in Othello, Troilus in Troilus and Cressida, and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing. Cage Sebastian Pierre appears as the well-intentioned peacemaker Benvolio. Pierre returns to Chicago Shakespeare after Macbeth and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks A Midsummer Night’s Dream; he has also appeared in Too Heavy for Your Pocket at Timeline Theatre and A Moon for the Misbegotten at Writers Theatre. The role of Juliet’s cousin Tybalt is performed by Sam Pearson, who has been seen at Chicago Shakespeare in Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Charles III.
Betsy Aidem plays the Nurse. An Obie Award winner, Aidem portrayed Lady Bird Johnson in Broadway’s All the Way opposite Bryan Cranston, and appeared off-Broadway in Atlantic Theatre’s Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling. Appearing as the Friar is Darlene Hope. Hope most recently led the company of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park. Additional credits include off-Broadway runs of Normalcy and Sistas the Musical.
As Romeo and Juliet’s parents whose bitter fighting has sustained generations of hatred are James Newcomb and Lia D. Mortensen as Mr. and Mrs. Capulet, and Dale Rivera and Brianna Buckley as Mr. and Mrs. Montague. Newcomb has appeared in more than 60 Shakespeare productions at Oregon Shakespeare, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Goodman Theatre, and at Chicago Shakespeare. Mortensen is a fixture on Chicago stages, with credits at Goodman Theatre, Northlight, and Writers Theatre. Rivera’s credits include A Tale of Two Cities, The Infidel, and Goodbye Stranger at Steppenwolf, as well as Anna in the Tropics at Victory Gardens. A teaching artist at Lifeline Theatre, Buckley has recently performed with Polarity Ensemble Theatre, Collaboraction, Haven Theatre, and Griffin Theatre.
The production features Julian Parker (Paris), Amir Abdullah (Chief of Police), Byron Coolie (Balthazar), Jaq Seifert (Apothecary), and Danielle Davis (Petra). Completing the company are Bobby Bowman, Rasell Holt, Kearstyn Keller, Claire Lostutter, Maria Clara Ospina, Alex Perez, Laura Quiñones, Zac Richey, and Madelynn Joy Stuenkel in the ensemble.
Joining Gaines on the creative team are Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Mieka van der Ploeg, Lighting Designer Aaron Spivey, Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel, and Wig and Make-up Designer Richard Jarvie. Rounding out the creative team are Fight Choreographer Rick Sordelet, Choreographer Steph Paul, Verse Coach Kevin Gudahl, Dramaturg Tyrone Phillips, and Assistant Director Enrico Spada.
For more information, visit chicagoshakes.com/romeoandjuliet or on social media at #cstRomeoJuliet