“Romeo and Juliet” 1870, by Ford Madox Brown (April 16, 1821 – October 6, 1893.) Courtesy of the Delaware Art Museum, a gift of Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935. Go see it at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware 19806
“Romeo and Juliet” 1870, by Ford Madox Brown (April 16, 1821 – October 6, 1893.) Courtesy of the Delaware Art Museum, a gift of Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935. Go see it at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware 19806 (Courtesy photo)

According to William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet were married on this date, March 11, 1302.

Shakespeare’s time-honored play “Romeo and Juliet” is one of his more famous works and it has a little something for everyone. Studying and performing Shakespeare’s plays are a time-honored tradition in Carroll County.

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To refresh your memory, “Romeo and Juliet” features the “star-crossed” love of two teenagers who happen to come from rival families, the Capulets and Montagues.

In a theme that is just as tragic and relevant today as when it was written more than 400 years ago, the blood-conflict between the two families began many years ago over petty misunderstandings that got blown out of proportion. Years later, neither family could recall the cause of the original dispute.

The play also delves into the intergenerational conflict between older folks and the two members of the youngest generation who fall in love and simply do not care about the ill feelings between the older generations.

Shakespeare (April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616,) wrote the play in the 1594-1595 time period – early in his career. It was written in the same time period that “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” were written. Today, academicians tend to look upon the three plays as a trilogy — a study of the themes of love, courtship, and marriage.

In England, the first performance of the play took place at a playhouse called the “Theatre,” in the latter part of 1594 just after the height of the “Black Plague” had killed over 10,000 citizens in London alone. The playhouse had room for an audience of over 1,500. Most tickets cost a penny.

Ten years ago I had an opportunity to write about a sneak preview of a production of “Romeo and Juliet” at Carroll Community College. The preview was part of a “freshman seminar” workshop for approximately 300 ninth grade students from Century High School. As I recall, I enjoyed watching the ninth-graders watch the play as much as I enjoyed the play.

At the time, the production company’s artistic director, Century High School English teacher Tom Delise, easily explained the performance’s success: “This ain’t your Daddy’s Shakespeare.” The play was directed by Tom Rinaldi, the son of Audrey Cimino, an accomplished Carroll County actress and singer — and the Community Foundation of Carroll County executive director.

In 1938, in New Windsor, outdoor theatre “made glorious summer,” according to research by historian Joe Getty for the Historical Society of Carroll County many years ago. “Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this son of York …” Many will recognize that these lines appear in “Richard III,” by Shakespeare.

Richard III is the last play of a study of the history of the English “Wars of Roses,” which went on from May 22, 1455 through June 16, 1487. A horrific conflict that featured one of the most capable and feared military commanders of all history, Queen Margaret of Anjou. Shakespeare described her in “Henry VI, Part III,” as the “She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France...”

History.com explained, “She even allowed her 7-year-old son to choose the method of execution for two captured Yorkists, and (she) complied when the boy decreed that they should ‘have their heads taken off.’” She raised the army that killed King Richard III on the morning of August 22, 1485; a defining moment in English history that took place in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Shakespeare’s “history theme” arguably includes plays such as “Henry VI” – parts 1, 2 and 3; “Richard 11” and “Henry V.” Of all of Shakespeare’s work, “Richard III” remains my favorite, followed by, on any given day, “As You Like It.”

Meanwhile, back in Carroll County in 1938, according to Getty, “The words of Shakespeare resounded among the trees in front of” what we know today as the Springdale Preparatory School, which opened just recently.

“(A) Shakespearian festival was sponsored by the drama department of Blue Ridge College…” Blue Ridge College folded in 1944. Brethren World Service Center occupied the campus for many years.

“This was no small-town production,” observed Getty in his research, “but was planned with panache and great vision. ...” The Westminster newspaper, the Democratic Advocate, proclaimed, “Excitement was also created in the town of New Windsor because actors from throughout the United States came to the campus to participate in the summer festival.”

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The repertoire during the 10-week season included a number of Shakespeare’s plays and a touch of Bollywood: “Also in production were a tragic East Indian pageant Savitri in which it was shown that a woman’s love endureth e’en beyond the doom of death.”

To this day, Carroll Countians “endureth e’en” beyond the doom of the cold discontent of winter and are made glorious summer by band concerts and local theater.

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