SALT Academy and Performing Arts Company presents two versions of 'Romeo and Juliet.'

COURTESY PHOTO:  LISA K. ANDERSON - Shakespeares tale of two star-crossed lovers comes to life at SALT Academy this month.A classic Shakespeare masterpiece meets a zany modern adaptation in SALT Academy and Performing Arts Company's latest production.

The theater will perform seven shows of "Romeo and Juliet" followed by "Juliet and This Guy Romeo" Friday, Jan. 19, through Saturday, Jan. 27. Tickets are $8.

First-time Director Gabby Pirisino and Assistant Director Mimi Stewart say the plays offer an approachable, condensed introduction to Shakespeare, helping audience members contextualize his plays.

"Shakespeare wrote this so long ago and here we are on a regular basis performing it or recreating it," Stewart says. "For kids to experience a play that doesn't seem to have an ending to its life is timeless."

One of Shakespeare's most popular and frequently performed plays, "Romeo and Juliet" chronicles two star-crossed lovers in Verona, Italy. The two come from feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets.

When Romeo and Juliet meet their untimely deaths, their families finally reconcile.

Don Zolidis' "Juliet and This Guy Romeo" tells the story of two rival families at war in Verona, Wis. As the adults argue about politics on Facebook into the night, the teenagers aggressively hashtag each other throughout the day.

But when a pair of teens from the different families fall so crazily in love that they start speaking in iambic pentameter, it's a tragedy waiting to happen.

The modern version also skewers online animosity between liberals and conservatives with a little help from Shakespeare.

SALT's production of both plays features a cast and crew of 22 members. Many of the actors portray the same character in each play, but the leads are portrayed by different actors.

While Gavin Jones and Sherry Mindiola imbue their characters with maturity and seriousness, Jordan Dwiggins and Ana Krachinski bring an over-the-top comedic presence to Romeo and Juliet.

"They've pulled everything together so quickly and have embraced their roles so tremendously," Pirisino says of the cast.

After becoming a full-time teacher, Pirisino is making her foray into directing. She describes the transition from performing with her peers to directing them.

"Taking the reins is challenging," Pirisino says. "But I've learned how to work hard and have fun."

Audience members can look forward to an up close and personal black box theater experience with the "Romeo and Juliet" plays. The set is simple to keep the focus on the actors.

Pirisino and Stewart say that the plays will appeal to audience members of all ages, describing how the plays are told in respectful way that is intentionally age appropriate.

"There's lots of fluidity from one play to the next," Pirisino says. "It's incredible how the actors go from serious roles to comedic roles. We end on a funny note."

Tickets for the plays can be purchased online in advance at No tickets will be sold at the door.

If you go

What: "Romeo and Juliet" followed by "Juliet and This Guy Romeo"

Where: SALT Theater, 333 N. Main Ave, Gresham, OR 97030

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, Thursday, Jan. 25 ,and Friday, Jan. 26. 1 and 6 p.m. Saturdays Jan. 20 and 27.

Cost: $8 general admission; 2 and younger free

Info: — no tickets at the door

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