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Justin Emeka directs Romeo N Juliet

Free performances of the classic, adapted and directed by Justin Emeka,run from Saturday, July 5 through Sunday, July 27-with a preview on Independence Day-at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.

William Shakespeare's famed star-crossed lovers bare their passion Uptown this summer as The Classical Theatre of Harlem --Ty Jones, producing artistic director; David Roberts, managing director-- presents Romeo n Juliet at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.

Justin Emeka, who edited and adapted the tragedy to bring the colorful characters of Harlem to life, returns for the second year in row as director. A preview will be held on Friday, July 4. Performances, which are free and open to the public, run from July 5 through 27.

Romeo n Juliet is also the sophomore effort of Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) in presenting free summer programming at the recently renovated amphitheater. CTH again brings together a dynamic cast and creative team of familiar faces from last season's critically acclaimed A Midsummer Night's Dream, along with some talented new additions. The production, which has a multiracial cast, is designed to bring professional entertainment to the local community, while drawing hard-core theater lovers from across the city.

"We are thrilled to blow the dust off this classic to reveal an array of identities within the African Diaspora. Exploring centuries-old themes around love, identity, violence and masculinity through this culturally specific lens is an exceptional and unique offering for the theatrical community," Jones said. "I am proud that we continue to reinvent these timeless works in ways that connect with young, contemporary, multiracial consumers while satisfying the sensibilities of longtime theater patrons."

"At CTH, we believe that the best art does more than put on a great show; it starts conversations, engenders action and engages a community at all levels," from individual residents and government, to local businesses and nonprofits, Roberts said. "We know that the positive economic impact of events like RnJ have a radiant effect on the local economy, and we're proud to have launched formal partnerships with a number of area small businesses that realize the value that CTH brings not just to their establishments, but to the quality of life of our neighborhood as a whole."

This intense and fiery production continues a movement to reimagine classical theater. RnJ reveals the unpredictable passion of love, barely separated from the unforgiving tragedy of violence. The stage explodes with soulful music, verse and movement, as hip-hop beats and dance-hall rhythms provide the backdrop for a community suffering from internal conflict.

The young lovers, Romeo (Sheldon Best) and Juliet (Natalie Paul), lead the cast, which includes Jamie Rezanour (Nurse), Zainab Jah (Friar/Sister Laurence), Dorcas Sowunmi (Lady Capulet), Jason Delane (Lord Capulet), Jameal Ali (Paris), Emmanuel Brown (Tybalt/Apothecary), Kambi Gathesha (Benvolio), Clark Harris (Montague), Keldrick Crowder (Prince), Ty Jones (Mercutio) and Anthony Lalor (Panther 1/Brother John). Rounding out the ensemble are Levell Franklin, Amara Granderson, Patricia Janvier, Jared Lewis and Djaka Souare.

Scenic design is by Anka Lupes, choreography by Lakai Worell (artistic co-director of the Brooklyn dance company Purelements), lighting design by Paul Hudson, sound design by Eric Sluyter, costume design by Rachel Dozier-Ezell, music direction by Chen Lo (of the Brooklyn-based music production company Soul Science Lab) and fight choreography by Emmanuel Brown (recent Obie-Award winner for Kung-Fu).

The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater is located in Marcus Garvey Park (enter at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue and walk south to the venue). Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Friday's curtain is at 8:15 p.m., following Jazzmobile free concerts at 7:00p.m. (There will be no performance on Tuesday, July 8.) The venue opens for seating at 7:00 p.m. each night and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Romeo n Juliet is sponsored by Columbus Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Harlem Community Development Corporation, L & N Andreas Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Office of NYC Councilmember Inez Dickens and SHS Foundation. Local business partners and sponsors include Art in FLUX, BLVD Bistro, City College of New York, Harlem Haberdashery, Harlem Park to Park, Harlem Shake, Lido, MIST Harlem and Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association.

Justin Emeka is a director, actor, writer, as well as a professor of theater. With more than 20 years of experience, Emeka is recognized for his new work and ability to integrate unique cultural traditions within classical and contemporary theater. He has taught theater both nationally and internationally. Some of his directing credits include: A Raisin in the Sun, Julius X, The Glass Menagerie, Dutchman, Macbeth, Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land, Stop Kiss, and Death of a Salesman, as well as new works such as Dominique Morisseau's Follow Me to Nellie's and Gabriel Emeka's The Compromise, Pressure: A Hip-Hop Theater Experience, Sankofa Theater and Where the Wild Things At. He is a recipient of the Seattle Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in playwriting and the Washington State Film Commission Screenwriting Award. Emeka is also a member of Actors' Equity Association, as well as an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. As an assistant professor at Oberlin College, he teaches directing, acting, and capoeira. He is happy to return to Classical Theatre of Harlem after directing last year's celebrated production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) (Ty Jones, producing artistic director; David Roberts, managing director), combines original adaptations, music and dance to present great classics of world literature as well as contemporary works that will stand the test of time, while being truly reflective of the diversity of ideas and racial tapestry that is America.

Since its founding in 1999, CTH has presented works ranging from traditional classical playwrights (Anton Chekhov, Euripides and William Shakespeare), to established 20th century playwrights (August Wilson, Langston Hughes and Jean Genet) to new plays by emerging playwrights. CTH also proudly provides theater-based training and live theater experiences to Harlem youth and their families through its arts education program, Project Classics. The organization engages new audiences, provides artistic development of new work and gives exposure to emerging playwrights with its free reading series Future Classics, Playwrights' Playground and Revisited Classics.

CTH is supported in part by Columbus Foundation, Ford Foundation, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, L & N Andreas Foundation and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. Visit: http://www.classicaltheatreofharlem.org/

Twitter/Instagram (@classicalharlem) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theclassicaltheatreofharlem

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