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Veteran fight choreographer brings expertise to the stage in "Romeo and Juliet"

Daring fight scenes, colorful dancing and Shakespearean tradition will be featured in "Romeo and Juliet," the final production for the New Mexico State University Department of Theatre Arts and the American Southwest Theatre Company's (ASTC) 2002-2003 season. The play will run April 25-May 4 at the Hershel Zohn Theatre on campus.

New Mexico State University seniors Kevin Coyle (top) and Jessica Settles (bottom) are the star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," playing April 25-May 4 at the Hershel Zohn Theatre. (NMSU photo by Diego Lucero)

The production is set in 18th century Spain amongst gypsies who dance flamenco. Guest fight choreographer David Doersch lent his 22 years of stage combat experience to the play to create an accurate portrayal of the setting.

"Flamenco sword work is a very specific style and period," Doersch said. He said the fighting can range from extreme posing and fighting to a more practical form, which was used for this show.

Doersch, who has worked on various shows in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Egypt, choreographed every fist and sword fight in the show. He trained the actors in sword work in the style of flamenco smallswords. He said the flamenco combat training was a supplement to the dance training they had already received.

Director and theater faculty member Tim Pinnow said he found flamenco dancing to be "incredibly passionate and strong" and a mirror for the passion of the two main characters. "We get this sense of these hot-blooded people in this really hot place with this very passionate dance and I think that's what leads us into the story," Pinnow said.

Doersch said the audience should expect something exciting from the play.

"The brilliant actors will be able to forward the action of the play with the fight scenes, but will not compete with the drama of the show," he said. "A fight should not stand out from the fabric of the show, but should instead be another strand in the tapestry that is the show."

Local dance instructor Brandi Johnston choreographed the flamenco dances. Costumes were designed by Deb Brunson, ASTC resident costume designer, and the settings by Jim Billings, ASTC resident set designer. New Mexico State students Kevin Coyle and Jessica Settles play Romeo and Juliet. The large cast of Montagues and Capulets include university students and community actors.

"Romeo and Juliet" is produced in association with the American Southwest Theatre Company. ASTC is a non-profit organization that conducts fund-raising activities to hire professional theater artists for productions at New Mexico State University and pay for special costs unique to a production. This season ASTC has brought the Creede Repertory Theatre, guest musicians, a vocal director and scenic designer, and guest fight and dance choreographers to New Mexico State.

For more information and tickets, call the ASTC box office at (505) 646-4515.