Alumni Play Key Roles in Shakespeare Festival

Elizabeth O'Neill as Lady Capulet, right, tries to comfort a distraught Juliet during a performance of "Romeo and Juliet," the Shakespeare by the Sea production presented by the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Chuck AndersenFor years, PBA alums have landed roles as leading ladies and lads in the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s productions — and this year’s show, “Romeo and Juliet” is no exception.

Trent Stephens ’11 directs the play, one of Shakespeare’s best-known works. Lindsey O’Neill ’17 stars as Juliet. Kendall Taylor ’19 has supporting roles as Sampson and Balthasar.

On the production side, Daniel Gordon, a former theater professor, serves as technical director. Sarah Byrd ’19 is the stage manager, and Courtney Poston ’09 is the dramaturge, coaching the cast on their characters and inflections. In addition to serving as producer and public relations extraordinaire, Elizabeth Dashiell ’98 plays both Lady Montague and Lady Capulet.

Dashiell credits her organization management degree for equipping her with time management and communication skills to juggle both on-stage and behind-the-scenes roles.

Roughly 10,000 people will see the show over this weekend and last, when it opened. The festival will produce four more Shakespeare by the Sea shows, each starting at 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday at Carlin Park in Jupiter. A $5 donation is suggested.

Late co-founder and director, Dr. Kevin Crawford, did some guest teaching at the University, Dashiell said.

As the University has grown, so has the talent of its students and its connection to the festival.

Romeo, played by John Campagnuolo, mourns over Juliet, played by Lindsey O'Neill, during "Romeo and Juliet," the Shakespeare by the Sea production presented by the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Chuck Andersen“The talent is incredible,” Dashiell said. “Everybody gets the exact same consideration when they come out for an audition, but they have just built up their theatre program.”

The alumni get professional experience and earn a stipend performing in Shakespeare by the Sea each summer. Four years ago, while still a PBA student, O’Neill was recipient of the Dr. Kevin Crawford Fellowship. The fellowship gives a theater major experience in his or her first professional production. O’Neill was the festival’s assistant stage manager for “Hamlet.”

“Hamlet” was also Stephens’ first time directing Shakespeare by the Sea. He was 25 years old that year, the festival’s 25th anniversary. Kyle Schnack ’10, now a PBA theater professor, played the starring role. Carly Lopez ’14 played Ophelia.

For “Romeo and Juliet,” O’Neill impressed Stephens with the way she embodied the female lead. She did an incredible amount of work to prepare for the role, even researching the effects of an impaling so that she could imitate the correct body language and sound effects for the audience, Dashiell said.

That kind of discipline is what sets people apart in the live theater world. Unlike film, you can’t do another take. There is only one chance to get it right — and that requires a great deal of preparation, Stephens said.

PBA faculty prepare their students and encourage them to audition for the festival, Stephens said, citing Schnack as an example.

“He is priming them always for Shakespeare auditions. They came out in really great force,” Stephens said. “There are a lot of really great schools and programs around here, and I think it’s cool that so much talent is coming out of PBA.”

Photo 1: Elizabeth O'Neill as Lady Capulet, right, tries to comfort a distraught Juliet during a performance of "Romeo and Juliet," the Shakespeare by the Sea production presented by the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Chuck Andersen

Photo 2: Romeo, played by John Campagnuolo, mourns over Juliet, played by Lindsey O'Neill, during "Romeo and Juliet," the Shakespeare by the Sea production presented by the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Chuck Andersen