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If you go
What: Shakespeare from the Heart presents “Romeo and Juliet”
When: 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, 3020 Hillegas Road
Admission: Free, but donations are encouraged; visit www.phoenixprodinc.com for more information to donate before the show. For courtesy of the performers, the troupe asks patrons to leave their pets at home.
Courtesy
Shakespeare from the Heart troupe will perform outdoors, portraying star-crossed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet” to benefit local Animal Care & Control.

Love in the park

Volunteer troupe uses Shakespeare to benefit charities

When it comes to outdoor theater, Mother Nature can be quite the character.

Dustin Reid, a nine-year member of the nonprofit performance troupe Shakespeare from the Heart, says that the group of volunteer actors have experienced it all while performing open-air productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Othello” to raise donations for local charities such as Vincent Village, Erin’s House and SCAN.

For the 13th annual Shakespeare production, Reid says their rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” will hopefully bring a downpour of donations rather than rain.

“You’re seeing these actors perform in the elements,” he says. “We have performed in thunderstorms, and we have performed in the best weather possible. It adds a degree of difficulty that our patrons who come out really appreciate.”

Shakespeare from the Heart has partnered with Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control to present “Romeo and Juliet” at the organization’s location on Hillegas Road. Shakespeare from the Heart will split all free-will donations to benefit Animal Care & Control’s pet adoption and volunteer programs. They hope to raise at least $800 to share.

For the first time this year, Shakespeare from the Heart established a “Go Fund Me” online campaign to receive early donations, which has brought in $270 so far.

“Who doesn’t love helping animals who are basically abandoned? These animals are picked up 24/7,” Reid says. “I would love to cut them a check for a couple grand, but it really depends on the weather.”

This will be the second time Shakespeare from the Heart has performed “Romeo and Juliet”; their 2004 performance was set during the Jazz Age of the 1930s. This year, Reid says the production returns to the original tragedy of “a pair of star-crossed lovers.”

“We wanted to get back to the nitty gritty of Shakespeare,” Reid says.

Shakespeare from the Heart was founded in 1999 by a small group of actors who wanted to use the works of Shakespeare to help local charities and introduce theater throughout the community.

Administration changes last year caused the original Shakespeare from the Heart to disband, but the troupe has now relaunched its performances as a subsidiary of Phoenix Productions Inc., in which Reid is president. Although this will be the first performance under the new parent company, he says the change helps its members expand the mission.

“Our ultimate goal is to have more than Shakespeare from the Heart,” Reid says. “We would like to have other productions that just don’t deal with Shakespeare and help more charities raise more money through us. Regardless of what we do, it’s about raising money for charities.”

Since Shakespeare from the Heart operates solely on donations from its members and the community, Reid says that the organization has to prepare for their annual production on a small budget.

Reid says that they have already spent $400 to $500 on this production.

“Unfortunately not every costume can fit everyone,” Reid says. “We have a good supply of stuff, but when it comes to advertising and buying new things we are going to need, the only way we get money is through donations.”

Jodi Hamilton, volunteer coordinator for Animal Care and Control, says since the beginning of the partnership in April, the organizations have worked together for a successful production. She says that even though Animal Care & Control will be closed during performances, volunteers will be showcasing animals that are available for adoption.

“It’s an opportunity to show the wonderful pets we have,” Hamilton says.

The proceeds will help provide funding for pet adoptions, and the other half will be used for volunteer training and retention programs, Hamilton says.

“We are always looking to increase our volunteer base,” she says. “Many of our volunteers come to us with different specialties or interests when it comes to animals, and we are always looking for people who want to get involved.”

kcarr@jg.net

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