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Two gentlemen (and a dog) open VSF’s 34th season

  • Virginia Shakespeare Festival
    Virginia Shakespeare Festival  Zoe Speas as Sylvia, Robert Arbaugh as Proteus and Kyle Curry as Thurio in the VSF production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."  Photo by Geoff Wade
  • Virginia Shakespeare Festival
    Virginia Shakespeare Festival  Mikaela Saccoccio as Lucetta (left) Megan Graves as Julia rehearse a scene from the play.  Photo by Robert Boag
  • Virginia Shakespeare Festival
    Virginia Shakespeare Festival  John Ammerman as Launce rehearses a scene with his canine companion Crab, played by Williamsburg's own Parker.  Photo by Robert Boag
  • Virginia Shakespeare Festival
    Virginia Shakespeare Festival  Robert Arbaugh as Proteus rehearses a scene from the play.  Photo by Robert Boag
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One of Shakespeare’s earliest and funniest plays “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” will open the 34th season of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival June 13.

Both “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and this season’s other offering of “The Merchant of Venice” will be performed in the intimate, 124-seat Studio Theatre at Phi Beta Kappa Hall while repairs are being done on the main stage.

Tickets are on sale now and range from $10 to $25, with a 20 percent discount on adult tickets when both productions are purchased. Group rates are available for 15 or more. The box office is open Tuesday through Sunday and can be reached at 757-221-2674 or online. “The Two Gentlemen of Vernona” is recommended for ages 13 and up.

Director Steven Breese, whose previous productions include “Romeo & Juliet” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” staged the fast-moving comedy in a roaring ’20s setting with a decided contrast between the vacation village Verona and the slick, stylish, uptown world of Milan.

“‘Two Gents,’ like most of Shakespeare, requires clear class delineation and iconography,” said Breese. “The 1920s offers both of these elements.  Also, the play, as written, is a bit fluffy—it needs clearer style, some danger and little sexiness to work in 2012. Again the’20s helps out in all of these areas.”

When Shakespeare wrote the play, his star clown, Will Kemp, had a trained dog that was an audience favorite. Queen Elizabeth even commented on how she “loved the dog bits best.”

In “The Two Gentlemen of Vernona,” a dog named Crab is the companion of the main servant character of Launce. In the VSF production, Launce is played by John Ammerman, whose previous work in “Illyria,” “Macbeth,” “The Complete History of American Abridged” and “A Man for All Seasons.”

As for the dog, auditions were held for the role, and Parker -- companion of Ann and Ron Grossman of Williamsburg – won the part.

Cast members Robert Arbaugh from Detroit and Drew Kopas from Washington, D.C., portray the two gentlemen whose friendship is tested when both fall in love with the same woman.

The role of that mutual love interest, Sylvia, is played by Zoe Speas, who previously appeared at the VSF as Margaret More inA Man for All Seasons.” Megan Graves plays Julia, the rival to the affections of one of the suitors. Ed Whitacre and Ron Reid, last together in the VSF stage in “What The Butler Saw” and recently together again in “Waiting for Godot,” try to keep some of the romantic shenanigans in check.

The show’s director embraced the studio theatre for the play, describing it as “a rare treat—professional Shakespeare in a small environment. I think that it is an astounding opportunity and one that audiences will remember and relish … easy to see, easy to hear, detail on costumes/scenery and real intimacy with the characters.”

For more information on this year’s festival, visit