VIRGINIA CITY -- Northern Nevada Shakespeare Festival's production of "Romeo and Juliet" has been clouded by the tragedy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Scheduled to run through Oct. 28 at Piper's Opera House, the show almost closed in the wake of lagging receipts following the attacks, but it will go on thanks to the spirit and generosity of cast, crew and the board of Piper's Opera House.
The company staged preview performances at southwest Reno's Bartley Ranch Sept. 14-15, just days after the terrorist tragedies, but the expected sellout crowd failed to appear.
"The production was wonderfully received. We had an 800-patron sellout for the preview, but only 230 people showed for performances," said Jeanmarie Simpson, artistic director for the company.
"The cancellations were horrific. We don't normally give refunds, but under the circumstances we couldn't refuse," she said. "We have guest stars, union artists with weekly salary demands. All the main expenses had been paid and we only had to make the payroll, but we couldn't do it."
The show would have to close and the responsibility for telling the cast and crew fell on company member Cameron Crain. Simpson recalled the silence that first met the announcement, then the reaction.
"First one actor stood up and said he would continue this weekend without pay, then the rest chimed in. Everyone came together, to keep the show open," Simpson said. "The whole company has deferred their salaries this week. That's about $3,500 we don't have to come up with."
Simpson also expressed appreciation to the board of Piper's Opera House. When they realized the production was struggling, they forfeited the rent for this weekend, a gesture that was unsolicited.
Simpson said shows are shutting down regularly on Broadway in the wake of the tragedy and the theater arts are suffering everywhere.
"People are simply not going to the theater," she said. "I think the theater exposes human experience in an in-your-face way. With what we've been through as a nation, I people can't stand it.
The plot of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." is no exception.
"'Romeo and Juliet' is such a poignant reminder of destructive power of hate and the way it tears things apart," she said. "They lose their lives because of their parents hatred in a centuries-long feud. It's very appropriate and resonates with what's going on E We need to go on with our lives, hopefully with new insight and perspective. Otherwise, why are we here?"
Guest artists include Lynne Griffin as the nurse, J. Todd Adams as Mercutio, James C. Anderson as Friar Lawrence and Jeffrey Cannata as Romeo.
Performances are scheduled at Piper's Opera House Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. A Sunday afternoon matinee is slated for 2 p.m. with tickets costing between $15 and $30. The company is offering two tickets for the price of one this weekend only. For more information call 775-847-0600.