Barnes, Smith bring Shakespeare’s most famous romantic duo to Bearden stage

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Emily Simmons

Emily Barnes and Ryan Smith star in this weekend's performances of Romeo and Juliet.

Emily Simmons, News Editor

Bearden theatre’s spring production of Romeo and Juliet has its opening night Friday as the audience is transported to the city of Verona to experience the tragedy of the iconic duo.

The Shakespearean play put on by Bearden’s advanced acting class features many dramatic fight scenes, a complex set design, and even genderbend characters to bring the play to life.

The two title characters of this production are played by senior Ryan Smith and junior Emily Barnes.

This will be the third lead role at Bearden for Smith, prior leads being Marius in Les Misérables and Will Parker in Oklahoma, and the first lead role for Barnes.

Smith who has been doing theatre since middle school and for his entire high school career at Bearden is excited to get to play the role of such a well-known character for his senior year.

“I can’t wait to let myself be taken over by the journey of Romeo,” Smith said. “There’s a magic of Shakespeare where you can really lose yourself to the show.

“The role of Romeo is also a little harder for audiences to take the side of [compared to] other characters I have played before. Romeo goes to some really cold places, and it’s been fun playing that kind of role which I have never explored before, that dark side of Romeo.”

Barnes, who first became involved in Bearden theatre as a sophomore, played Dream Laurey in Oklahoma in the fall. She’s taking on her toughest acting challenge to date with Juliet.

“Juliet just expresses such a wider range of emotions compared to my last role as Dream Laurey last semester, and Romeo and Juliet is such an infamous tragedy, the position of Juliet is just much more complex,” Barnes said.

The shows are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7 p.m. The Sunday show is also at night in order to avoid conflict with Bearden’s Baccalaureate. Tickets can be purchased at beardentheatre.com for $12.

In addition to the challenge of the deeper emotional depth of the two characters, the two Bearden actors have faced other challenges in taking on and becoming their roles for the production.

“Once I got the language broken down it all began to make sense,” Barnes said. “Memorizing the lines was new for me, and while it was a tedious process, when I finally got off book, it was one of the most satisfying experiences.”  

Added Smith: “This production is a lot more physically taxing than I thought, but I think how dynamic it is with all the action and even the sword fighting some of the other cast have worked hard on will keep the audience engaged.”

Despite the emotional, physical, and linguistic challenges this production has presented, both Barnes and Smith have enjoyed getting to work together as the famous star-crossed lovers.

“Ryan is absolutely incredible,” Barnes said. “Not only is he talented beyond belief, but he is such a helpful and encouraging guy, and has really helped make this entire production come together and come to life.”

Smith echoes his co-star’s feelings.

“Working with Emily has been so easy,” Smith said. “It surprised me just how comfortable I felt working with her for this role. And this is even her first production with a major role, and she is just spellbinding.”