Romeo and Juliet

L to R: Susan Rober, Mary DeMatteo and Karen Righter in Romeo and Juliet L to R: Susan Rober, Mary DeMatteo and Karen Righter in Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare in South Park Troupe prepares ‘Romeo And Juliet’

By Katie Maurer

L to R: Susan Rober, Mary DeMatteo and Karen Righter in Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet will make an appear-ance in South Park this weekend, but it won’t be the Romeo and Juliet we are used to.

Director Daniel Wilson has decided to go with a Civil War theme for the Shakes-peare in South Park Company’s mini-malist interpretation of the Bard’s time-
less romantic tragedy.

“I’ve enjoyed this concept,” Wilson said. “However we are not trying to show why the Civil War started but what the Civil War caused.”

Wilson has made additional changes to this familiar tale of star-crossed lovers. In addition to the story being set in Dayton after the Civil War, the role of Friar Laurence, normally played by a male, will be Mother Laurence, portrayed by Judi Earley, an African-American female.

“We wanted to set the story among people whose history we know intimately here in Dayton,” said Galen Wilson, South Park resident and co-producer who will portray Lord Montague. “(The War) takes on a reality and we get inside and grasp the tragedy and disaster.”

Wilson said he wants the audience to know that the play is not about the causes of the Civil War but the fallout. The goal is to look at a snapshot of life in Ohio after the War. Additionally, the Montagues will be depicted as Union soldiers while the Capulets serve as Confederates.

“We are setting it right here, because we are right here and that makes it more interesting to potential audiences,” he said. “It is very likely that there would have been a situation right here in our fair city in which two fairly powerful and well off families landed on opposite sides of the Civil War issues and maybe even some of the battles.”

About half of this year’s cast actually lives in South Park while the other half is from the Dayton area. Mary DeMatteo, a Dayton resident, will play Juliet. She heard about the show while performing in Cinderella this summer at La Comedia Dinner Theater. She recently graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Mike Embree, who will play Romeo, is excited to perform Shakespeare once again. The Dayton resident hasn’t had the opportunity to be in a Shakespeare play since 2005.

He particularly regards this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet as a great platform for him before he moves to New York City in the next couple of months to pursue a career in acting.

“I love the twist Daniel has put on the play because it’s relevant to today,” he said. “It references more of a recent timeline and people can relate to it because it’s not just a love story but feuds where families are against families.”

Jarrett Dickey, a South Park resident, will actually get a real life experience in what it was like to be on both sides of the story. Dickey will play Abraham, who starts a fight at the beginning and is part of the Montague family, as well as Paris, Juliet’s jilted love interest who wants to be a Capulet.

“I hadn’t done any drama or acting until I got involved with Shakespeare in the Park last year after I moved to the neighborhood,” he said.

For Susan Roberts, a Brookville resident, acting isn’t anything new. Roberts directed many plays at Dayton Christian Middle School. She will portray Lady Capulet in this third production from the Shakespeare in South Park troupe.

“It’s something to work with,” she said, “because the Capulets will be talking with a Southern accent and the Montagues will have a Northern accent.”

Romeo and Juliet will be performed Friday, September 17-Sunday, September 19 at 8 p.m. at the South Park Green, Hickory and James Streets. Admission is free but donations are gladly accepted. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Parking will be available at Hope Lutheran Church or Emerson Academy. In case of rain, the production will be held at Hope Lutheran Church, 500 Hickory Street. For more information, call (937) 603-4893 or visit online at

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Maurer at

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