The Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program and Live Wire Theatre Company will present a joint outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet (1594-95) May 15-30 in Pullen Park in the grassy plaza near the Carousel. Picnic dinners, lawn chairs, and blankets are not only allowed, but recommended; and concessions will also be available.

Live Wire Theatre Company artistic director Scott Franco will direct Elizabethan dramatist William Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers and revenge run amok, and Walter Herz and Kendall Riliegh will play the title roles of literature’s most famous teenage lovers.

“I first read Romeo and Juliet in high school,” says Scott Franco, “and I was immediately drawn to the story. For Live Wire Theatre’s production, I’ve edited the script to 90 minutes, added two of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and consolidated some of the secondary characters, to give the performance a more ensemble feel.”

Franco says the action and the romance of this classic Shakespearean script are what most appeal to him as a director. “This play is fun,” he claims. “[It has] romance, swordplay, and fantastic characters telling a classic story; it’s a story [that is] as much fun to tell as it is to watch. Also, being out first production, we wanted to start out with a project that had broad appeal.”

Most Triangle theatergoers know the plot by heart. “Romeo (Walter Herz) and Juliet (Kendall Riliegh) are teenage lovers from feuding families,” Franco says. “Romeo’s friends Benvolio (William Stutts, Jr.) and Mercutio (Joe Brack) take Romeo to a feast at their enemy’s house, where he first lays eyes and lips on Juliet. Counseled by her Nurse (SaRAH! Kocz) and the Friar (Ron Coley), Juliet and Romeo wed in secret, hoping to end their parents’ strife with love and live happily ever after.”

Meanwhile, Franco adds, “Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Tommy Hoang) challenges Romeo to a duel, having no idea that the two have newly become part of the same family. Romeo refuses to fight, and Mercutio steps in to preserve Romeo’s honor. Mercutio falls, and Romeo seeks his revenge against Tybalt.

“After learning of the brawling of her new husband and her cousin, Juliet is thrown into grief,” Franco adds. “Her father, Capulet (Phil Crone), promises her hand to a local gentleman Paris (Jazz Undy). The Friar, in hopes of aiding Romeo and Juliet, presents Juliet with a potential remedy to her situation, which tragically falls short.”

Director Scott Franco will combine with Joe Brack to design the show’s sets, and will share the role of fight choreographer with Heather J. Franco. Brack and Heather Franco will design the show’s costumes.

Scott Franco says, “The [major] challenges of this project come from the fact that Live Wire is a new theater company, and a small group of dedicated individuals has had to take on many roles within the project.”

He adds, “The costumes are impressionistic: simple black-and-white outfits for the ensemble, with dashes of purple and green for the Capulets and Montagues.”

In conclusion, Scott Franco notes, “This production of Romeo and Juliet will be an open-air production in Pullen Park. There are no artificial lights or artificial sound, just the way it would have been in Shakespeare’s day. We have stripped down this famous story to its bare essentials: a stage, a story, and actors.”

Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program and Live Wire Theatre Company present Romeo and Juliet Saturday-Sunday, May 15-16, 22-23, and 29-30, at 6 p.m. in Pullen Park, 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, North Carolina. (NOTE: Rain dates are June 5 and 6 at 6 p.m.). $8 (children 6 years and younger get in free). 919/831-6126. Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program: [inactive 6/04] . Live Wire Theatre Company: Romeo and Juliet (University of Virginia E-text):